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From Baghdad to Boulder

Iraqi scientists make landmark visit

by Bob Henson

Iraqi scientists visit NCAR

Ali Sabeeh Dawood, Husam Hanna Habib, and Abdul Kareem Mohammad (left to right) met with Michael Knölker, head of NCAR’s High Altitude Observatory, during their February visit to Boulder. See a QuickTime video. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Many atmospheric researchers are accustomed to collaborating with people around the globe. But a recent U.S. visit by three scientists from abroad carried more meaning than usual. It was the first delegation of Iraqi scientists to visit the United States in decades.

Boulder’s NCAR and NOAA labs played host to Abdul Kareem Mohammad, Husam Hanna Habib, and Ali Sabeeh Dawood on 16–20 February. All three are part of the Space Observatory and Simulation Research Center, where Abdul is head, Husam is co-head, and Ali is a physicist. The center is based in Iraq’s Ministry of Science and Technology, which was established in 2003. “We want to make the reconstruction of our country by education and by science,” Abdul Kareem told the Boulder Daily Camera.

The visit was coordinated by Randolph “Stick” Ware, formerly of UCAR and now chief scientist of the Boulder firm Radiometrics. It emerged from a routine request placed last year by the Iraqi Meteorological Organization to purchase a radiometer from Ware’s company. Normally, staff from Radiometrics would travel to the purchaser’s location to install the equipment and train users, but the Baghdad location proved problematic. “Then we set up training in Jordan, but for some reason that fell apart, so the Iraqis said they’d try to come to our lab,” said Ware. After a months-long wait, the scientists were granted U.S. visas in late January.

Along with their visit to Radiometrics, group members spent a full day at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory and several mornings and afternoons meeting with NCAR scientists. The group also paid a visit to the floor of the Colorado State Senate. The scientists’ strongest interests included GPS-based atmospheric observations and weather modification.

NCAR’s Syed Rafat Husain Rizvi, a former meteorologist with the Indian Meteorological Department, hosted the group for a dinner and encouraged the group to consider exploring the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) and its data-assimilation version. “I was delighted to hear their views about rebuilding Iraq,” says Rizvi. He adds that the U.S. visit will provide valuable input for the Iraqi Ministry of Science as it explores possibilities for future U.S.–Iraqi scientific collaboration.

QuickTime video of Iraqi scientists visiting the NCAR/ESSL High Altitude Observatory (~2 minutes)

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