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Visiting Scientist Programs

UOP's former Visiting Scientist Program has gone plural--Programs--to show that the office now supports an array of visitor opportunities for new and experienced scientists. From managing a single visitor program at the National Meteorological Center (now part of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, or NCEP), the office has grown in the last few years to encompass many opportunities at universities, NOAA labs, EPA, the Naval Research Laboratory, and other research institutions.

"Most of the growth has come from word of mouth," says Meg Austin, director of the program. "Several federal agencies expressed interest in becoming more involved with the university community. They came to us. Then the word passed to other program managers." Last year, the program supported over 80 fellowships for graduate and postdoctoral students and senior scientists.

"If there's a driving philosophy behind the program, it's to try to help the atmospheric science community link scientists together," Austin explains. "This is a broad goal of UCAR." To fulfill this goal, VSP has continued to expand its efforts to develop new programs, strengthening the ties between federal agencies and academia.

What follows is a list of the programs the VSP office currently manages. The Postdoctoral Program in Climate and Global Change offers eight openings each year; the other programs offer a varying number of positions annually. Each program is overseen by a scientific steering committee. Requirements and deadlines for application differ for each program. For more information on any of the programs, contact Austin (303-497-8630 or austin@ucar.edu).

Kristin Eschker, Ellen Martinez, Rebecca Baum, Meg Austin, Susan Baltuch. (Photo by Carlye Calvin)

NOAA Postdoctoral Program in Climate and Global Change

This program was designed to help create the next generation of scientists needed for climate change studies. Appointments are for up to two years. Participants work with NOAA host scientists on topics related to climate variation on time scales from seasons to centuries and periods from paleohistory to the future. (See box for an example of recent research supported under this program.)

To foster the interdisciplinary ties and exchange of ideas so needed in this field, the group has organized a series of summer institutes to gather past and present fellows from this program, host scientists, guest speakers, and NOAA representatives to discuss and assess the importance of various topics to the U.S. Global Climate Research Program's past and future work. The second of these was held last summer in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

NOAA Visiting Scientist Program at NCEP and NESDIS

Appointments are available for postdoctoral fellows, senior scientists, and graduate research assistants. The number of openings at any time depends on NCEP's research needs and budgetary contingencies. The national centers are the Environmental Modeling Center, the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, the Marine Prediction Center, and the Climate Prediction Center (all in Camp Springs, Maryland); the Storm Prediction Center (Norman, Oklahoma); the Aviation Weather Center (Kansas City); the Tropical Prediction Center/National Hurricane Center (Miami, Florida); and the Space Environment Center (Boulder, Colorado). Appointments are also made to NCEP Central Operations and the National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service, or NESDIS (both in Camp Springs).

The national centers work to achieve operational climate and ocean prediction, short-range weather forecasts, and space environment prediction; NESDIS manages the U.S. civil operational remote-sensing satellite systems and a large number of global data bases.

NOAA/EPA Postdoctoral Programs in Regional/Urban Air Quality, Particulate, and Applied Biological/Ecological Modeling

This new program pairs recent Ph.D. scientists with host scientists at EPA's National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL) in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The biological/ecological modeling work will focus on forest and multispecies modeling and development of a coupled terrestrial-atmosphere model. The particulate modeling fellowships will develop a regional-scale particulate model prototype or a multipollutant, nested photochemical model. The goal of the air quality modeling effort is to develop an understanding of air quality on time scales from episodic to annual and to offer predictions on these time scales for spatial scales ranging from local to continental.

NOAA Office of Hydrology Visiting Scientist Program

Scientists chosen for this program help the National Weather Service (NWS) improve its river stage and flood forecasts. Stationed at the Hydrologic Research Laboratory in Silver Spring, Maryland, they will model basin- and smaller-scale outflows and rainfall runoff using the NWS River Forecast System operation.

Appointments in this program are also made at the NOAA National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center. Located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the NOHRSC is the NWS's center of expertise in satellite and airborne remote sensing and geographic information systems. Visitors at this center concentrate on the NWS snow accumulation and ablation model and the service's Snow Estimation and Updating System.

Visiting Scientist Program at the NOAA National Ocean Service (NOS)

This position is in the Coastal and Estuarine Oceanography Branch of NOS, located in Silver Spring, Maryland. The program allows a new Ph.D. scientist to work with NOAA investigators to develop NOAA's coastal forecasting system.

Visiting Scientist Program at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)

This program brings distinguished atmospheric scientists to NRL's Marine Meteorology Division in Monterey, California. The goal is to improve operational analysis and prediction systems at the navy's central site and aboard ships. Experienced scientists work with researchers on site to develop a coastal mesoscale atmospheric analysis and prediction system and contribute to ongoing projects in global and regional prediction, automated satellite image interpretation, data assimilation, and visualization of environmental information.

National Weather Service Graduate Student Fellowship Program

This program is designed to support graduate students in the field of climate applications and services. Graduate fellows support an applied research project at one of the Regional Climate Centers while maintaining their own high academic standards.

Air Weather Service Visiting Scientist Program

Visitors in this program--Ph.D. scientists at any stage of their career--are based at the Air Force Global Weather Central (AFGWC) near Omaha, Nebraska, or the Air Force Combat Climatology Center at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. Current appointments are being made at the AFGWC. Its mission is to construct the world's most comprehensive environmental data base and apply the data in real time to the specific requirements of military decision makers. AFGWC provides worldwide meteorological advice and forecasts for air terminal and target areas, as well as a host of other weather-related services, to the U.S. Air Force. Visitors aid such endeavors as meteorological modeling, tailored data applications, and related data visualization development.

NOAA National Ice Center Visiting Scientist Program

The goal of this new program is to develop a science team at the National Ice Center near Washington, D.C. The center plans to link its own operational ice analysis with other work in the ice research community. Senior and postdoctoral visitors will build a science unit within the center and conduct applications-oriented research relevant to NIC's ice monitoring mission. Senior visitors will cooperate with the research community to identify work that can be incorporated into the center's operational environment.

Results from one visiting scientist: It's no laughing matter

When worries about the global atmosphere begin to nag, many people have consoled themselves with the thought that at least we are well on the way to eliminating the stratospheric ozone hole. Now comes the news that although the ozone layer will probably recover, the recovery may not be as complete as we hope. Cindy Nevison, who recently completed a two-year appointment under the NOAA Postdoctoral Program in Climate and Global Change, has written a paper on a molecule whose contribution to ozone depletion currently receives little attention, but whose impact could be greater than such better-publicized phenomena as emissions of nitrogen oxides from supersonic aircraft.

An inert molecule with a long lifetime in the atmosphere, nitrous oxide (N2O, also familiar as laughing gas) ascends through the troposphere and breaks down photochemically in the stratosphere. Besides having natural sources, it is released by fertilizer use. Nevison explains, "After participating in an [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] committee which developed a new methodology for estimating N2O emissions from agriculture and reviewing a paper which seemed geared toward defining U.S. policy on N2O mitigation, I began to think that current approaches were flawed. I decided to write a paper addressing what I thought were some of the flaws."

In researching the paper, she delved into work from the 1970s, when concern about N2O began. "The papers at that time predicted stratospheric ozone losses as high as 20% from fertilizer-induced N2O production," she says. "However, after some early chemical reaction rates were reevaluated in the late 1970s, models began predicting that increased atmospheric N2O could actually increase stratospheric ozone. The subject largely dropped out of the scientific literature at that point." Scientists later turned to the more pressing question of chlorine-ozone reactions. Nevison adds, "Today, most papers on N2O mention that it affects stratospheric ozone, but my sense is that most people are unsure about the magnitude and even the sign of its effect." New understandings of the relevant chemistry further complicate the problem.

To calculate the impact of increasing anthropogenic nitrogen fixation on atmospheric N2O, Nevison used a simple 1970s-style approach, setting values for the amount of anthropogenic nitrogen that is rapidly emitted to the atmosphere by denitrification and the fraction of that amount that is N2O. She believes that this approach provides a useful check on the more complex methods employed today, which she says have tended to underestimate the fertilizer source by considering only short-term fates of fertilizer.

Nevison thinks the relevant time frame for considering the effect of N2O on stratospheric ozone is hundreds of years in the future, for three reasons:

By 2100, Nevison estimates, the source of atmospheric N2O may be double its pre-Industrial Revolution value. When the atmosphere has adjusted to this increased source, her model predicts that increased atmospheric N2O will reduce the recovery of the ozone hole by about 25%.

"I changed the topic of my research considerably between my Ph.D. and this postdoctoral work because I wanted to be more involved in chemistry," says Nevison, who received her doctoral degree from Stanford University. "The [Postdoctoral Program in Climate and Global Change] gave me the freedom to study a new field and to work on issues that I thought were important."

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Edited by Carol Rasmussen, carolr@ucar.edu
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Last revised: Tue Apr 4 10:18:15 MDT 2000