ucar Highlights 2007

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A Community of Peers

UCAR nourishes connections among scores of universities and laboratories, engaging thousands of people, all working to understand the exquisite complexity of the atmosphere and its relation to Earth, ice, sea, Sun, and life.

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The personal touch | Africa in mind | Servicio en español | From passing interest to passion |

Online pathways | Extra computing | Whatever the weather


videoIntroduction to/Introducción a MILAGRO
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Servicio en español: Translation and innovation expand UCAR’s
connections to the Spanish-speaking world

The World Wide Web offers a huge range of information on weather and climate, but only a sliver of that spectrum is available in Spanish. Since 2006, UCAR has dramatically stepped up its efforts to offer online educational materials en español. It’s one example of how education initiatives, research collaborations, and technological exchanges have ramped up UCAR’s engagement with Latin America.

The atmosphere in Spanish

“There’s an ignored ocean of demand,” says Roberta Johnson, director of UCAR Education and Outreach, in discussing the need for Spanish-language materials on atmospheric and Earth system science. UCAR’s EO program provides more than 60% of its 7,000-page Windows to the Universe Web site in Spanish. Now in its 12th year, this multilayered guide to Earth and planetary science draws roughly 19 million users each year. More than a quarter of them now head for the Spanish pages.


UCAR’s translation specialists include Marina LaGrave and David Russo.

Another center of translation action is UOP’s COMET Program, which unveiled a Spanish version of the higher-level pages on its popular MetEd site in 2007. Most of COMET’s online modules are intended as continuing education for operational forecasters, but they are also popular in college classrooms and even among motivated high school students eager to learn about such topics as rip currents or mesoscale convective systems. COMET now has some 65 hours of online educational materials available in Spanish and plans to add 20 to 40 hours each year.

Teachers crave additional background to help them convey geoscience concepts to students across the Spanish-speaking world as well as in bilingual classrooms. One of EO’s first efforts to meet this need was a workshop in 2004 for 30 teachers who conduct bilingual K-12 programs in Boulder County, where UCAR is based. This one-shot effort morphed into a series that now provides Earth system teaching tools to bilingually oriented teachers from a variety of locations.

In Latin America, the effects of El Niño and La Niña loom large. As an invited visitor to NCAR’s Center for Capacity Building in 2006, Columbia University graduate student Ivan Ramirez began work on a Spanish-language Web site introducing readers to the manifold aspects of “El Niño affairs,” ranging across science, ecology, economics, health, history, law and ethics. Now a doctoral student at Michigan State University, Ramirez continues to develop the El Niño Affairs Web site, which he constructed with Lino Naranjo-Diaz, of Spain’s weather service, and Elsa Galarza (University of the Pacific, Lima). “It is important not only to present this kind of information in the language of Latin Americans, but also to present knowledge generated by Latin Americans themselves,” says Ramirez.
conveyor belt

This depiction of air flow around a developing cyclone is one of many graphics provided in Spanish on COMET’s MetEd site.

Observing and learning in Mexico

A major partnership between scientists at NCAR and their southern counterparts unfolded with the 2006 MILAGRO study (Megacity Initiative: Local and Global Research Observations), based in and around Mexico City. MILAGRO included four complementary field campaigns that brought some 300 scientists from almost a hundred institutions to Mexico to begin finding an answer to one of the world’s nastier atmospheric problems: the dense air pollution from megacities.

“If we can understand the pollution impacts of Mexico City, we can apply this new knowledge to other urban areas across the globe,” says NCAR’s Sasha Madronich, who began working on the foundation of MILAGRO nearly a decade ago. From a base in Veracruz, the NSF/NCAR C-130 aircraft logged nearly 100 flight hours. Cruising through the canopy of soot and other emissions that cloak Mexico City, the C-130 found pollution levels even more extensive than expected. Subsequent analysis of the full MILAGRO data set found complex interactions between the urban emissions, the atmospheric inversions that prevail across of the region’s high plateaus, and smoke from nearby forest fires.

MILAGRO also led to fruitful partnerships in the K-12 realm. Along with producing Spanish-language outreach materials for the MILAGRO Web site, UCAR educators built strong ties with local teachers and education specialists in the area. They now have agreements with two Mexican states, Veracruz and Jalisco, to advance science education.

Enhancing the flow of data between South and North

Campuses in Chile, Brazil, and Argentina access weather data through UCAR’s IDD system.

Although the Internet’s influence is truly global, not every user can access what they need with equal ease. Specialized software, hardware, training, and support are essential in order for meteorology faculty and students to download, process, and manipulate the torrent of data now available from global observing systems. UOP’s Unidata Program Center is working with colleagues in South America to provide improved access to weather reports and satellite images.

One vehicle is IDD-Brazil, a recent outgrowth of Unidata’s Internet Data Distribution system. The IDD facilitates free access to real-time weather data for academic use. Created in partnership with universities in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Para, IDD-Brazil now extends beyond national borders. It’s fostering innovative geoscience teaching at institutions in Costa Rica, Argentina, and Chile as well as Brazil. “The free access to real-time information provides a unique experience,” says Pedro Silva Dias (University of São Paulo).

International teamwork by the atmospheric science community has led to another resource now providing invaluable satellite data to the meteorological community in South America. By 2006, the tenth of NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES-10) had been monitoring western North America and the eastern Pacific Ocean for eight years. Though it was soon to be replaced, GOES-10 had the potential to provide much-needed imagery to South America if it could be shifted to the right location.

Through an agreement between NOAA, the World Meteorological Organization, and several Latin American countries, GOES-10 gained a second lease on life. In January 2007, the satellite began monitoring Central and South America from a new perch in space. To make the GOES-10 data easily accessible to users, NCAR furnished a satellite receiver and computing infrastructure, while Unidata provided system and operations support and the University of Wisconsin contributed software for ingesting data.

UCAR president Richard Anthes stresses the power of the newly configured satellite together with the hemisphere’s two other GOES units. “These will greatly enhance existing research and educational endeavors and allow for the creation of new and unexpected opportunities,” he says. “Thousands of forecasters, students, faculty, and research staff across the Western Hemisphere will benefit.”

A group of K-12 educators from Veracruz, Mexico, visited NCAR in 2006. Left to right: Minerva Portilla Cano, María Virginia Pérez Ulloa, Vilda Georgina Mar Delgado, Amparo Hernández Cáceres, Ana Isabel Estévez Ruiz.

The personal touch
| Africa in mind | Servicio en español | From passing interest to passion |

Online pathways | Extra computing | Whatever the weather