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National Center for Atmospheric Research

Coordinates: 39°58′41″N 105°16′30″W / 39.97815°N 105.27492°W / 39.97815; -105.27492
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National Center for Atmospheric Research
DirectorEverette Joseph[1]
StaffNearly 1,400[2]
LocationBoulder, Colorado, United States
39°58′41″N 105°16′30″W / 39.97815°N 105.27492°W / 39.97815; -105.27492
Websitencar.ucar.edu Edit this at Wikidata

The US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR /ˈɛnkɑːr/)[3] is a US federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) managed by the nonprofit University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).[4] NCAR has multiple facilities, including the I. M. Pei-designed Mesa Laboratory headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. Studies include meteorology, climate science, atmospheric chemistry, solar-terrestrial interactions, environmental and societal impacts.

Tools and technologies[edit]

NSF/NCAR Gulfstream V research aircraft.

NCAR was instrumental in developing lidar, light radar, now a key archaeological tool, as well as providing a broad array of tools and technologies to the scientific community for studying Earth's atmosphere, including,[5][6]

Staffing areas and notable past and present scientists[edit]

The center is staffed by scientists, engineers, technicians, and support personnel.[4] Key research areas include:[8]

  • Climate (Earth's past, present, and future climate; the greenhouse effect, global warming, and climate change; El Niño, La Niña, and other large-scale atmospheric patterns; drought, wildfires)
  • Meteorology/Weather (short-term forecasts; weather forecasting and predictability; weather's effect on climate; hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe storms; physical processes)
  • Environmental and societal impacts (impacts of climate change on the natural and managed environment; interactions of weather, climate, and society; weather hazard systems for aviation and ground transportation; national security)
  • Pollution and air chemistry (air pollution on local, regional, and global scales; air chemistry and climate; chemical evolution and transport in the atmosphere)
  • The Sun and space weather (the structure of the Sun, from its interior to sunspots to the solar corona; the solar cycle; the Sun's effect on Earth's weather and climate; space weather)
  • Other components of the Earth system (the effects on weather and climate of interactions with: the oceans and other components of Earth's water cycle, including sea ice, glaciers, and the rest of the cryosphere; forests, agriculture, urbanization and other types of land use)

Notable scientists on the current staff at the center include Tom Wigley, Kevin Trenberth, Clara Deser, and Caspar Ammann,[9][better source needed] and in past have included Paul Crutzen (Nobel Prize in chemistry, 1995); Paul Julian, who with colleague Roland Madden discovered the Madden–Julian oscillation; Stephen Schneider . Greg Holland initiated the multiscale modeling project "Predicting the Earth System Across Scales".[10]

Organization of research—laboratories and programs[edit]

NCAR is currently organized into seven laboratories and two programs:[11]


  • Atmospheric Chemistry Observations and Modeling laboratory (ACOM)
  • Climate and Global Dynamics laboratory (CGD)
  • Computational & Information Systems Laboratory (CISL)—CISL was formerly known as the Scientific Computing Division (SCD). CISL manages and operates NCAR's supercomputers, mass storage system, networking, and other computing and cyberinfrastructure services. The Institute for Mathematics Applied to Geosciences (IMAGe) is a research division within CISL.[11]
  • Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL)—EOL was formerly known as the Atmospheric Technology Division (ATD). EOL manages and operates NCAR's lower atmosphere observing systems, including ground-based instrumentation and two research aircraft, on behalf of the NSF.
  • High Altitude Observatory (HAO)—The oldest part of NCAR, HAO is NCAR's solar-terrestrial physics laboratory. Research foci are the Sun and the Earth's upper atmosphere. HAO operates the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory (MLSO).
  • Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology laboratory (MMM)
  • Research Applications Laboratory (RAL)


  • Advanced Study Program (ASP)
  • Integrated Science Program (ISP)

NCAR's service to the universities and larger geosciences community is reinforced by the offerings of UCAR's community programs.[12][13]

Funding and management[edit]

NCAR is managed by the nonprofit UCAR and is one of the NSF's Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, with approximately 95% of its funding coming from the federal government. However, it is not a federal agency and its employees are not part of the federal personnel system.[3] NCAR employs about 761 staff. Its annual expenditures in fiscal year 2015 were $167.8 million.[3][14]

NCAR directors[edit]

The founding director of NCAR was Walter Orr Roberts.[15] The current director is Everette Joseph.[16][4]

NCAR Director Dates in office
Walter Orr Roberts 1960–1968
John W. Firor 1968–1974
Francis P. Bretherton 1974–1980
Wilmot N. Hess 1980–1986
Richard A. Anthes 1986–1988
Robert Serafin 1989–2000
Timothy L. Killeen 2000–2008
Eric J. Barron 2008–2010
Roger M. Wakimoto 2010–2013
Maura Hagan 2013 (interim director)
James W. Hurrell 2013–2018
Everette Joseph 2019–present


Scientific visitors[edit]

NCAR has many opportunities for scientific visits to the facilities for workshops, colloquia, and collaboration by colleagues in academia, government labs, and the private sector.[17] Many NCAR staff also visit colleagues at universities and labs and serve as adjunct or visiting faculty.[13][17]

Public tours[edit]

The Visitor Center at the Mesa Laboratory is open to the public daily at no charge. Guided tours and self-guided tablet tours include video and audio on one of the first supercomputers built by Seymour Cray as well as NCAR's modern supercomputer fleet, many hands-on educational exhibits demonstrating weather phenomena and the changes in Earth's climate brought on by global warming, and a scenic outdoor weather trail.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Leadership | University Corporation for Atmospheric Research". www.ucar.edu. Retrieved 2024-04-26.
  2. ^ "Staff | University Corporation for Atmospheric Research". www.ucar.edu. Retrieved 2024-04-26.
  3. ^ a b c Quick Facts about NCAR & UCAR
  4. ^ a b c "New Director of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research Rose Through the Ranks". July 31, 2013.
  5. ^ NCAR Research & Resources
  6. ^ National Center for Atmospheric Research (NSF Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences)
  7. ^ "CISL's NCAR Command Language (NCL)". UCAR.
  8. ^ Atmospheric & Earth System Research: NCAR research topics, 2008, accessed 2010-06-22. Archived 2010-07-25 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Pearce, Fred, The Climate Files: The Battle for the Truth about Global Warming, (2010) Guardian Books, ISBN 978-0-85265-229-9, p. XVIII.
  10. ^ M. Gad-el-Hak Large Scale Disasters Prediction Control and Mitigation 2008 "was initiated by Greg Holland"
  11. ^ a b "NCAR's Clickable Organization Chart". Archived from the original on 2015-01-10. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  12. ^ "UCAR Community Programs". Archived from the original on 2014-12-08. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  13. ^ a b UCAR Highlights
  14. ^ NCAR Annual Report
  15. ^ NCAR Directors
  16. ^ Hosansky, David (December 7, 2018). "Everette Joseph is named NCAR director". NCAR & UCAR News. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  17. ^ a b Visitor Programs – Opportunities for Scientific Visitors & Students

External links[edit]