overview of projects throughout the organization
partner with World Bank in Latin America and the
Caribbean. NCAR signed an agreement with
the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development,
an institution of the World Bank, on February 14.
Under the agreement, NCAR will provide technology
transfer, training, computer infrastructure, and
other tools for assessing weather and climate change
impacts in Latin America and the Caribbean. The region
is increasingly suffering from economic, environmental,
and societal losses due to climate-change–related
weather events such as floods and droughts.
The idea was hatched when Lawrence
met two World Bank engineers at a conference in Bogotá,
Colombia, while presenting climate change results
from the Community Climate System Model. “As
we talked, it became apparent that our two groups
have very similar goals, basically to make the world
a better place,” he says. “We saw a clear
opportunity to apply NCAR’s expertise in climate
change and regional modeling to assist the World
Bank’s sustainable development programs in
Through collaboration with scientists in Latin America
and the Caribbean, NCAR will share its scientific,
educational, and technical expertise, as well as
the organization’s weather and climate models
and computer systems. The World Bank, in turn, will
provide expertise on societal issues and financial
support for the projects, as well as leverage its
contacts in Latin America and the Caribbean.
As an example of how the agreement will benefit the
region, Lawrence describes a chain of high-altitude
glaciers associated with Peru’s Quelccaya Ice
Cap. Below these glaciers lie watersheds with hydroelectric
dams supplying nearby population centers with water
and power; below the dams are large agricultural
regions. As global temperatures rise, the glaciers
are melting quickly and are expected to be depleted
sometime in the next 5–10 years, leaving many
thousands of people without reliable water and power.
The World Bank is helping Peru develop alternative
energy and water sources. As a critical part of the
planning and funding, Peruvian planners need an estimate
of how soon the glaciers will disappear, which is
where NCAR enters the picture.
“While NCAR doesn’t have the mission
or personnel to look specifically at this question,
the goal is to provide scientists from the region
with training and access to our science and computing
power, enabling them to address real-world problems
such as this themselves,” Lawrence says.
If the pilot agreement is successful, he adds, it
could be extended around the world. UCAR/NCAR programs
and staff interested in taking part in the collaboration
are encouraged to contact Lawrence (ext.
A new tool for emergency helicopter
pilots. As part of RAL’s Aviation Digital Data Services (ADDS) program,
Greg Thompson and colleagues have released a Java-based software tool for helicopter
pilots in the emergency medical services community.
Emergency helicopter pilots typically fly at low levels (under 5,000 feet) on
short-notice, short-distance missions. These routes can easily fall between weather
stations, leaving pilots without weather data on a small enough scale to see
conditions between, for example, an accident site and a hospital. “If Flight
for Life has to take off and pick someone up where no weather data are available,
they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place not knowing what the weather
is along the way,” Greg explains.
But with the help of RAL’s HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services)
Low Altitude Flight Tool, emergency personnel are no longer limited to data from
weather stations. The software allows pilots to view additional, comprehensive
weather data generated by RAL’s Ceiling and Visibility Product Development
Team, with satellite imagery to fill in the gaps. They can even zoom in to see
the location of a hospital. By showing pilots weather conditions between stations,
the software may help them decide if it’s unsafe to fly.
“It really helps them with a no-go decision because they may see something
that tells them not to take the flight,” Greg says.
Funded by the Federal Aviation Administration, HEMS has been running since November
1, 2006. It covers the United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) and parts
of Canada and Mexico. According to Greg, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,
with emergency personnel even writing to describe how HEMS has helped their decision-making
More about HEMS.
Applying WRF to West Africa. Postdoctoral researcher
Benjamin Lamptey (ASP/RAL) recently returned from
Ghana, where he set up a computer at the country’s
national weather service for the specific purpose
of storing weather data that RAL researchers will
be able to access remotely.
Benjamin and colleagues in RAL are working to adapt
the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF)
for use in West Africa. Since last year, the team
has been gathering observational data, running
the model in real time, verifying output, and making
One of their biggest challenges is obtaining timely
weather reports from the region, as they are unable
to get enough local, real-time data for West Africa
from the World Meteorological Organization’s
Global Telecommunication System. Benjamin is working
with contacts throughout West Africa to have other
nations send weather data to Ghana, where the computer
he set up will serve as a clearinghouse, making
it easier for the RAL team to get data in real
As one of the most powerful mesoscale models in
the world, WRF can be run at very high resolution,
making it an ideal tool for countries to address
their specific needs, such as application to water
resources or agriculture. For example, a WRF forecast
may help farmers in West Africa identify the best
times to plant and harvest their crops.
The RAL researchers hope that forecasters and the
applications community will use and evaluate the
West African WRF system so they can get feedback
on the model’s capabilities and make further
“By running WRF for West Africa, we’re
showing its ability to provide weather information
in support of decision making at relevant scales.
This will appeal to the applications community
and should attract more people to use WRF for very
specific needs,” Benjamin says. “More
people will get training in how to use it, and
countries will become better equipped to run it.”
Mapping the structure of Sun-like
stars. Satellite missions in the next few years are expected
to provide a wealth of data about our galaxy and its numerous stars. This will
create challenges for astronomers who attempt to map the structures of Sun-like
stars by using asteroseismology—the study of seismic waves that propagate
deep into the interior of pulsating stars and reveal information through variations
in light and velocity. Astronomers currently study one star at a time by trying
to match its pulsation data with output from computer models, which is a cumbersome
and time-consuming process that may fail to keep up with new satellite data.
Travis Metcalfe (CISL/HAO) has developed a computational method known as a parallel
genetic algorithm to enable scientists to rapidly map the structures of dozens
or even hundreds of Sun-like stars. The algorithm is designed to probe the broad
range of possible characteristics of a star, thereby enabling a scientist to
create an optimal model of the star more efficiently. Travis is running the algorithm
on the Blue Gene/L supercomputer at the Mesa Lab, a specialized machine that
is perfect for this challenging application because it can run a large number
of models simultaneously on more than 2,000 processors.
Gathering information about Sun-like stars throughout the galaxy will help scientists
better understand the fundamental forces that power the Sun. Scientists also
hope to learn about how stars like our Sun evolve over time, establishing a broader
context for our understanding of solar physics.
UCAR’s Spanish translators,
Marina LaGrave (EO) and David Russi (COMET).
more Web resources en español. EO and COMET have stepped up their
efforts to translate more Web resources into Spanish.
Much of EO’s translation efforts to date have centered on Windows to the
Universe, a multilayered guide to Earth and planetary sciences that accounts
for more than half of the traffic on UCAR servers. Led by chief translator Marina
LaGrave, EO has translated about 75% of the site into Spanish. Of the roughly
16 million users who visit Windows to the Universe each year, more than a quarter
now head for the Spanish pages.
There’s also a fair bit of cross-visitation, according to EO director Roberta
Johnson. “Because you can easily switch from English to Spanish or vice
versa, there are people using the site to learn both languages,” she says.
With this in mind, EO is translating and building glossaries and a dictionary
to help bridge English and Spanish materials on the site and facilitate reading
and language acquisition.
Meanwhile, COMET’s David Russi, the program’s first full-time translator,
has produced Spanish versions of all of COMET’s top-level MetEd pages and
has translated 15 modules. This summer, COMET will release a distance learning
course on basic hydrologic science in both English and Spanish at roughly the
same time. David has also translated two of COMET’s modules on the GOES-10
satellite, which was recently repositioned to monitor Central and South America.
Although most of COMET’s modules are intended for forecasters, they are
popular as educational resources for college and even high school students eager
to learn about topics such as rip currents and mesoscale convective systems.
Terminology is a particular focus of COMET’s translation efforts. The new
Spanish language resource page available on MetEd provides access to external
glossaries and dictionaries in Spanish and English. In addition, COMET is translating
its own glossaries to help bridge English and Spanish materials.
Visit COMET’s Spanish
Windows to the Universe
In this issue...
Polar Year kicks off this month
BudBurst to debut
Stephenson Hawk joins SERE
interview with Katy Schmoll
Lab a medieval castle?
Just One Look
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