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The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) works with universities and research centers across the world to learn more about the atmosphere and its interactions with the Sun, oceans, biosphere, and human society. These Web pages highlight NCAR's collaborations with researchers on every continent. They are based on a 2005 brochure, "Partnerships Around the World: Advancing Our Understanding of Earth's Atmosphere." To download pdfs of the brochure, click here.

Can a new fleet of satellites improve weather predictions around the world?

How do atmospheric disturbances over the Pacific Ocean trigger major storms in Europe?

What are the best techniques for training young forecasters in developing countries?

To tackle these and other pressing issues, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) is joining with scientists and educators around the globe. These collaborations provide mutual benefit, boosting our understanding of global weather and climate patterns while shedding light on regional problems such as typhoons and wildfires.


NCAR brings together scientists from around the globe to conduct research that advances our understanding of the atmosphere. (Photo by Carlye Calvin, ©UCAR.)

“One of our primary missions is to advance global research for the benefit of society,” explains UCAR president Richard Anthes. “We serve the world community by engaging in international research projects and by training young scientists across the world.”

UCAR’s international focus is particularly important as scientists piece together the global nature of our climate system.

Researchers at institutions across the United States and overseas share observations and computer models to analyze worldwide atmospheric patterns, such as the interactions between ocean temperatures and continental precipitation or the impact of tropical storms on midlatitude climate patterns. UCAR’s collaborations also extend beyond the Earth system, as scientists join forces to study the Sun’s mysterious magnetic fields and hunt for planets in other solar systems.

Pierre Friedlingstein of the Laboratory for Climate Sciences and the Environment in France, who works regularly with scientists at UCAR and elsewhere, says international collaboration is necessary to unravel the complexities of the atmosphere. “The climate issue is too important to be addressed by one single group,” he says. “The multiple-brains approach is the most successful. You need different views, methods, and modeling approaches to get a better grip on the science.”

UCAR’s global vision is enhanced by more than 40 international affiliates, representing every continent except Antarctica.

Founded in 1960 to study every part of our planet’s atmosphere, UCAR oversees the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the UCAR Office of Programs. These organizations have spearheaded numerous international collaborations.

In a recent field project, NCAR researchers collaborated with scientists from several Mexican institutions to learn more about North American monsoons. (Photo by Carlye Calvin, UCAR Digital Image Library.)

Field projects. UCAR researchers have helped coordinate and conduct many of the landmark field experiments in atmospheric science during the last two generations. These multinational projects, involving research aircraft and ships as well as ground-based sensors, have shed light on such essential atmospheric processes as the effect of tropical clouds on global climate and the forces that generate life-sustaining monsoons.

Now UCAR is laying the groundwork for a series of new international field experiments. For example, NCAR’s upcoming Megacity Impacts on Regional and Global Environments project will track air pollutants flowing out of Mexico City, giving scientists insights into the regional impacts of urban pollution.

Technology transfer. UCAR regularly helps other nations develop the tools they need to generate better forecasts and safeguard their residents from major storms. In recognition of such efforts, UCAR president Anthes won the highest award that China bestows on foreigners for playing a leading role in two decades of collaborations to help the Chinese develop modern weather prediction models and numerical analyses. NCAR designed an advanced weather warning system for Taiwan to bolster air safety, and the organization has equipped numerous nations with tools such as new software systems to track atmospheric events.

Instrument building. To design and build large, complex research instruments, scientists from several countries frequently combine efforts. Satellite sensors are a case in point. In a project known as COSMIC, UCAR researchers are working with colleagues in Taiwan on design and deployment of a set of six satellites to provide unprecedented observations of the atmosphere. UCAR also played a leading role on another international project, the orbiting HIRDLS instrument aboard NASA’s Aura satellite, which measures atmospheric chemicals and is expected to produce long-sought answers about greenhouse gases, pollutants, and the destruction and recovery of the ozone layer.

In collaboration with the University of Toronto, NCAR researchers designed the MOPITT instrument, which measures carbon monoxide levels as it orbits Earth aboard NASA’s Terra satellite. MOPITT has enabled scientists for the first time to create global maps of air pollution, quantifying emissions from wildfires and industrial sources and pinpointing pollution hotspots.

Using the Community Climate System Model, scientists can run simulations of global climate. View an animation. (Courtesy NCAR Visualization Laboratory.)

Computer modeling. NCAR is home to one of the world’s premier computer climate simulators, the Community Climate System Model. The model’s underlying computer code is available to scientists around the world, spurring important research collaborations into what Earth’s climate looked like in the past and how it is likely to change in coming decades. NCAR also shares other computer models with overseas collaborators, including weather models to help societies anticipate storms and wildfire models to scrutinize massive blazes.

Data sharing. A key challenge for atmospheric scientists is piecing together disparate pieces of data. UCAR’s Unidata program disseminates data from observing systems around the globe to more than 100 universities worldwide, and it also provides tools to help researchers analyze and visualize the data. The organization also augments limited records of past climate through such projects as a collaboration with Russian and Chinese institutions to digitize ship observations of weather events around the world dating back to the 19th century.

Global research initiatives. UCAR helps set the agenda for worldwide research initiatives. Its scientists sit on the boards of international science bodies, such as the World Climate Research Programme and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, that guide work in key climate and weather areas. In addition, NCAR scientists are among the lead authors of the assessments of the United Nations–sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The periodic assessments, which rely in part on NCAR data analyses and computer models, provide important guidance to policymakers and researchers.

NCAR scientist Steven Oncley launches a weather balloon for a group of schoolchildren on the island of Barbuda during a multinational field project and education program, RICO. (Photo by Carlye Calvin, ©UCAR.)

Education programs. Year in and year out, UCAR provides training for students and working scientists in the United States and across the world. Its Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training (COMET), which is sponsored by organizations in the United States and Canada, creates training materials for forecasters in Africa, the Americas, and elsewhere on such topics as interpreting satellite data. UCAR also hosts specialized programs for early-career scientists from developing countries.

Every year, the organization brings 10–15 postdoctoral scientists from the United States and abroad to Boulder to work with NCAR scientists on critical research questions. The organization benefits from continuous contact with some of the most promising young scientists in the field, while the postdoctoral scientists are exposed to the depth and breadth of science at NCAR.

UCAR helps foster scientific learning in more than 105 nations by operating GLOBE. This innovative program encourages primary and secondary students to take observations and do their own research.

In addition, the UCAR Office of Education and Outreach promotes scientific literacy and advances education and training for students, teachers, and the public.

This Web site provides highlights of UCAR’s international collaborations, organized by region. You can also find a general overview of UCAR and NCAR science at Our Research.

For Mitali Das Gupta, a doctoral candidate in energy economics at Jadavpur University in India, air quality in New Delhi and Calcutta is a major concern. “People in those cities breathe really dirty air and also pay a heavy economic price for the cities’ emissions,” she explains.

NCAR, which fosters worldwide research into the critical area of urban emissions, is providing mentoring and other support for Das Gupta and 18 of her colleagues. The young researchers are taking part in a two-year project that seeks to explore the impacts that cities around the world have on air quality and climate change. With urban areas growing ever larger and emitting significant amounts of pollutants, this is an increasingly important topic in public health.

NCAR is providing support for young researchers from around the world who are studying the causes and impacts of urban emissions. (Photo courtesy International START Secretariat.)

Helping to orient the researchers, NCAR in 2003 hosted the Advanced Institute on Urbanization, Emissions, and the Global Carbon Cycle, a three-week intensive overview of issues related to urban emissions. “The problems ahead are very complicated,” warned Rosendo Pujol, an instructor at the institute and director of the Research Program on Sustainable Urban Development at the University of Costa Rica. He told the students, “You are the generation that needs to find solutions.”

Participants in the long-term project consist of a diverse mix of young engineers, urban planners, and social and natural scientists. Chosen from a large pool of international applicants, most are from developing nations where they are either pursuing doctoral degrees or are in the early and middle stages of their careers.

They enjoyed their time at NCAR scrutinizing the sources and possible impacts of urban emissions on the crowded, warmer world of the 21st century. “I’m here because I want to gain knowledge and keep up to date so I can transfer what I know to students,” said Dewi Kirono, a lecturer on climate and urban air pollution at Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia. “I also want to build a network to know what others are doing and strengthen my research capability.”

NCAR scientist Robert Harriss is helping to oversee the young scientists’ progress. The participants plan to reconvene in late 2005 to present their final reports.

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