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The road less traveled:
UCAR Affiliate Professor Program


Each year, hundreds of scientific visitors come to NCAR and other UCAR programs, resulting in ongoing contacts and collaborations that enrich all the institutions involved. The path in the other direction, from UCAR to the universities, is less well traveled, but equally enriching.

The affiliate professor program provides a way for this to happen. Through this program, UCAR scientific staff are formally affiliated with a university to collaborate in research and to teach.

Currently, two NCAR scientists are affiliate professors. David Schimel, of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division (and also affiliated with the Atmospheric Chemistry Division and UCAR's Climate System Modeling Program), is an affiliate professor at Colorado State University. Roelof Bruintjes, who holds an appointment split between the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division (MMM) and Research Applications Program (RAP), is affiliated with the University of Arizona.

Schimel was a faculty member at CSU before coming to NCAR in 1990. He has continued to serve as a graduate student adviser and has maintained collaborative research relationships with CSU faculty. "CSU geochemist Gene Kelly and I recently had an NSF facility award granted as a joint project between CSU and NCAR to do isotopic analyses of atmospheric chemical species," says Schimel. "I will also be teaching one class a year at CSU. Next spring, Roger Pielke [of CSU] and I will be teaching a course on the theory and modeling of atmosphere-ecosystem interactions."

Schimel's collaborative work at CSU will use a new technology that links a gas chromatograph to an isotope ratio mass spectrometer. This combination allows researchers to do automated analysis of the isotopic composition of atmospheric gases, which means they can deal with large numbers of very small samples. This in turn, explains Schimel, allows them "to start to look at the isotopic composition of fluxes directly. This will help answer some important questions. For example, we know that the budget of methane is complicated by the fact that in any given source area, such as a wetland, some fraction of it may be consumed, or oxidized, before it ever leaves the soil surface. To understand the overall impact of global changes like temperature rise, we have to understand the effect on each of these processes separately, because different processes have different sensitivities to climate and other controls. In short, we get a better understanding of the processes that control methane emissions." The technique can also be applied to the carbon cycle--specifically, the role of biospheric processes like photosynthesis, decomposition, and respiration, in the isotopic composition of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is an important clue to what's happening to the carbon budget.

"There is one other aspect of the affiliate professorship that's beneficial: much of my work prior to coming to NCAR was experimental, and not modeling or theoretical," says Schimel. "While NCAR has many field and measurement programs, my work on ecosystem effects, the carbon cycle, and especially isotopic analyses, required expertise and instruments not available through NCAR's ongoing experimental programs. I have maintained my CSU connections in part to support that aspect of my research. NCAR has not had to develop facilities that duplicate CSU's, and ties to the university are strengthened. That has worked very well and has also made the ecosystem measurement facilities and expertise at CSU available for other NCAR scientists. It's been a most positive interaction."

Bruintjes is just beginning his affiliate professorship at the University of Arizona in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and the Institute of Atmospheric Physics. As with Schimel's appointment, it is a continuation of a long association. When he came to NCAR from South Africa in 1990, it was as a visiting scientist working for the University of Arizona. Since becoming an NCAR scientist in 1993, he has continued to collaborate with Arizona faculty on weather modification and cloud microphysical research.

Bruintjes will be engaged in both research and teaching; in the third year he will probably teach a semester course in either cloud microphysics or physical meteorology; he has a strong background in both fields.

In his research he'll be working with U. of A. atmospheric chemist Eric Betterton on two closely related studies of precipitation in winter storms. He had already been working on one, called the Arizona Program; in fact, Philip Krider, chairman of the Atmospheric Sciences Department, calls him a "key participant" in the design of the program, which is supported by the NOAA Federal-State Cooperative Program in Atmospheric Modification Research. As a part of the preparation for the program, he and another MMM researcher, Terry Clark, have been adapting and enhancing a computer model to deal with microphysical processes in the area to be studied. The program culminates this winter in a large, multi- institution field experiment that will be held in a mountainous region of central Arizona. It focuses on winter storms as they pass over the Mogollon Rim area southeast of Flagstaff. Bruintjes is particularly interested in the role of ice processes in precipitation formation in clouds, especially the influence of chemistry and electrostatic charges on the formation and growth characteristics of ice crystals.

The other aspect of the University of Arizona program will concentrate on winter storms passing over the Chuska Mountains on the land of the Navajo Nation. Both programs have the same objectives, says Bruintjes: to understand the precipitation development in winter storms as they pass through these areas and to determine if there is any possibility of enhancing snowpack via cloud seeding to provide more water for these arid regions.

Bruintjes feels the affiliate professor program is "very worthwhile. I find the university environment very stimulating. Here at NCAR we work in different groups, and there might be a whole group devoted to a particular specialty. A university faculty may have one person with that specialty, and others have different ones, so you interact continually with people from a variety of specialties. It's like NCAR in miniature."

NCAR benefits as well. In supporting Bruintjes' appointment, MMM director Robert Gall and Richard Wagoner (then-acting director of RAP) noted that it would strengthen the microphysical research programs in both divisions, "in particular our programs to develop better methods to account for ice processes within clouds, which will be of direct benefit to the Winter Icing and Storms Project."

UCAR encourages scientific staff to seek affiliate professorships. Scientists at any level are eligible and costs are shared by UCAR and the university. Affiliations are usually for a term of three years but can be renewed indefinitely. At least once in the three years affiliate professors visit their universities for an academic term or longer. University faculty interested in inviting a UCAR scientist to visit as an affiliate professor should either contact the individual directly (UCAR information: 303-497-1000) or Harriet Barker (303-497-1657 or harriet@ucar.edu).


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Edited by Carol Rasmussen, carolr@ucar.edu
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Last revised: Mon Apr 3 17:39:58 MDT 2000