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October 1999

Where's ATD? You'll need MAP to find them

A large fleet of instruments, including Doppler on Wheels (right), is tracking the weather for MAP in and near the Swiss Alps. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Rarely does almost half of an NCAR division leave town for the better part of two months. That's the case this fall for the Atmospheric Technology Division. About 50 staff from ATD and several others from the Joint Office for Science Support (JOSS) are involved in the Mesoscale Alpine Project (MAP). The field project now unfolding in and near the Swiss Alps is ATD's biggest field effort since the first Aerosol Characterization Experiment (ACE-1) in 1995.

MAP has pulled together a broad set of partners from North America and Europe to study two areas, including some topics never before investigated in the field this systematically:

The NSF/NCAR Electra has joined a fleet of eight other research aircraft from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and the U.S. The Electra and a NOAA P-3 are based at the MAP Operations Center in Innsbruck, Austria. Among other topics, the planes are studying the waves that form when strong southerlies impinge upon the east-west barrier of the Alps, causing the foehn phenomenon similar to Boulder's chinooks. Lidar, radar, and other on-board equipment are helping to trace such features as potential vorticity banners that were found in pre-MAP modeling studies. Such banners, extending up to 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) downstream from alpine peaks, may be involved in the formation of cyclones to the lee of the mountains.

MAP data will be used to help verify a variety of other mountain-related phenomena observed in numerical models. Some two years of high-resolution modeling work has led up to the field phase itself, and other modeling will follow.

On the ground, ATD's S-Pol radar has been sited at Vergiate, just south of the Italian Alps. With mountains, forests, and urban areas all poised to block radar beams, placing S-Pol correctly was a real challenge, says ATD director Dave Carlson. "Normally we don't even like having a few trees nearby. Now we've deliberately put S-Pol into an environment of complex terrain." S-Pol is joining forces with Doppler on Wheels (DOW), the truck-mounted Doppler radar that will be rolling through Italian hillsides on its first overseas mission.

About one hour away from S-Pol is the project operations center (POC), located on the Linate air base in Milan. JOSS's Dick Dirks is serving as operations director at Innsbruck for the first half of MAP, to be succeeded there by Peter Binder of the Swiss Meteorological Institute. At the POC Jim Moore and Jose Meitin are taking turns coordinating the aircraft operations with the S-Pol and other Doppler radars. The weather during the field program may also be focused in two phases, says Dick. "We expect the heaviest rains to be more toward the beginning of the project, and the stronger dynamics with the mountain waves to be more toward the end."

Each day's activities will be summarized on the Web as part of an online catalog, "almost like a daily operations report," says Dick. JOSS has mounted real-time catalogs for the past several years: "With each project it's modified, so it should be only bigger and better [for MAP]."

Swiss villagers may spot the NSF/NCAR Electra crisscrossing the Alps for MAP this fall.

Afterward, JOSS's CODIAC system will provide catalogs for the enormous data sets to be amassed by ATD, along with NOAA and other collaborators. ATD expects MAP to be its first terabyte project (producing over a trillion bytes of data). Supplementing the special observing equipment brought in for MAP will be several hundred automated weather stations, over 6,000 rain gauges, and about 20 overlapping radars (mostly Doppler) already in place.

The dense population of Europe is one reason why funding agencies were interested in MAP and its study of hazardous weather. However, the density also poses some problems not always encountered in more remote areas. For example, deploying dropsondes over a populated area is tricky: "It's not easy to do even in the U.S.," says Dick. Austria's OKs had to be solicited county by county. Most of the needed approvals had been negotiated as the project, although over the Italian Alps, MAP is only allowed to drop sondes in a small area.

A key force behind MAP is Joach Kuettner, head of the MAP Project Office. Holder of the UCAR Distinguished Chair for Atmospheric Sciences and International Research, Joach has been interested in mountain-wave behavior for many decades. MAP brings him to familiar ground: the long-time pilot studied lee waves using gliders over Europe in the 1930s and the Sierra Nevadas in the 1950s. Joach is spending most of this fall's special observing period of MAP on site--including his 90th birthday, which fell on 21 September.

Along with UOP and NCAR, MAP's participants include NOAA, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, 8 U.S. universities, 12 weather services, and 25 research institutes in Europe and Canada. Scientific directors are Philippe Bougeault (Météo-France) and Ron Smith (Yale University) for the first and second halves of MAP, respectively. Bob Houze (University of Washington) is overseeing the Wet-MAP component from Linate.

Bob Henson

See the MAP International Program Office Web site. More coverage of MAP will appear in Staff Notes Monthly after the field phase concludes.

What does it take to lure Peter Hildebrand away?

Peter Hildebrand

The job had to be a good one to uproot Peter Hildebrand after 21 years in Boulder. And indeed it is. Peter moved to Greenbelt, Maryland, last month to head up the Microwave Sensors Branch at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

The group uses familiar technology--radars and radiometers, largely deployed on aircraft and satellites--and applies it to global-scale problems. "It's really an exciting opportunity to start applying what I've learned about remote sensing to the problems of global measurements of hydrology, surface moisture, precipitation, and ocean-surface characteristics," says Peter. "These kinds of opportunities don't come along very often, and I just decided I'd better do it."

The only catch is that Peter won't get to see his pride and joy, the Electra Doppler radar (ELDORA), in action this fall at MAP. "I'm really going to miss all the fun in MAP. I put a lot of effort into getting it going."

Peter joined NCAR as a postdoc in 1978 and became an ATD scientist in 1979. As far back as the early 1980s, he began feasibility studies on combining NCAR's expertises in aviation and radar to build a plane-based Doppler radar.

"Within a year or two after joining ATD, I realized that it was the perfect place to develop airborne Doppler. I just started pushing on it, and the details of the design developed as we worked." Peter and Chuck Frush collaborated with NOAA to help get the radar aboard their P-3 up and running, and "those efforts demonstrated quite convincingly that airborne Doppler would work." Craig Walther then joined the design team, and by the early 1990s ATD was partnering with the French government to build ELDORA, which debuted in 1993.

Although he's being forced to miss MAP, the timing of Peter's departure makes sense in other ways. He has gotten several other high-priority projects rolling in his 10 years as head of ATD's Remote Sensing Facility (RSF), including the S-Pol multiparameter radar, the airborne imaging microwave radiometer (AIMR), and NCAR's first major foray into lidar, SABL (the scanning aerosol backscatter lidar). "When I took over leading RSF, Rit Carbone [then the director of ATD] told me he wanted me to completely renovate RSF's capabilities and to get some lidar capabilities going. That turned out to be a tall order, but now we've got SABL operating, we've developed very strong collaborations with NOAA's Environmental Technology Lab [renowned for its lidar expertise] and we've got Volker Wulfmeyer here doing some very exciting things with Doppler lidar and water vapor DIAL lidar."

Craig Walther will stand in for Peter as acting manager of RSF, and Wen-Chau Lee will head up scientific applications of ELDORA. Peter plans to return to ATD for several periods to complete some research and tie up a few loose ends. He also hopes to develop links between his old and new institutions. He points out that NASA has made use of ATD facilities in the past and said he expects that to continue in future field campaigns.

"In the process of making a career decision like this, a lot of soul searching goes on," says Peter. He adds, though, "If I'm going to leave, this is a good time to do it. Things are working well; RSF is an excellent group and their instruments are in good shape and in high demand. I'd say the hardest part of the move is leaving Colorado and the mountains, actually. That's going to be tough." •BH


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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
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