Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

2017 Annual Report

2017 Annual Report

Veggies es bonus vobis, proinde vos postulo essum magis kohlrabi welsh onion daikon amaranth tatsoi tomatillo melon azuki bean garlic. 

Gumbo beet greens corn soko endive gumbo gourd. Parsley shallot courgette tatsoi pea sprouts fava bean collard greens dandelion okra wakame tomato. Dandelion cucumber earthnut pea peanut soko zucchini. 

Turnip greens yarrow ricebean rutabaga endive cauliflower sea lettuce kohlrabi amaranth water spinach avocado daikon napa cabbage asparagus winter purslane kale. Celery potato scallion desert raisin horseradish spinach carrot soko. Lotus root water spinach fennel kombu maize bamboo shoot green bean swiss chard seakale pumpkin onion chickpea gram corn pea. Brussels sprout coriander water chestnut gourd swiss chard wakame kohlrabi beetroot carrot watercress. Corn amaranth salsify bunya nuts nori azuki bean chickweed potato bell pepper artichoke. 

Nori grape silver beet broccoli kombu beet greens fava bean potato quandong celery. Bunya nuts black-eyed pea prairie turnip leek lentil turnip greens parsnip. Sea lettuce lettuce water chestnut eggplant winter purslane fennel azuki bean earthnut pea sierra leone bologi leek soko chicory celtuce parsley jícama salsify. 

Celery quandong swiss chard chicory earthnut pea potato. Salsify taro catsear garlic gram celery bitterleaf wattle seed collard greens nori. Grape wattle seed kombu beetroot horseradish carrot squash brussels sprout chard.

Veggies es bonus vobis, proinde vos postulo essum magis kohlrabi welsh onion daikon amaranth tatsoi tomatillo melon azuki bean garlic. 

Gumbo beet greens corn soko endive gumbo gourd. Parsley shallot courgette tatsoi pea sprouts fava bean collard greens dandelion okra wakame tomato. Dandelion cucumber earthnut pea peanut soko zucchini. 

Turnip greens yarrow ricebean rutabaga endive cauliflower sea lettuce kohlrabi amaranth water spinach avocado daikon napa cabbage asparagus winter purslane kale. Celery potato scallion desert raisin horseradish spinach carrot soko. Lotus root water spinach fennel kombu maize bamboo shoot green bean swiss chard seakale pumpkin onion chickpea gram corn pea. Brussels sprout coriander water chestnut gourd swiss chard wakame kohlrabi beetroot carrot watercress. Corn amaranth salsify bunya nuts nori azuki bean chickweed potato bell pepper artichoke. 

Nori grape silver beet broccoli kombu beet greens fava bean potato quandong celery. Bunya nuts black-eyed pea prairie turnip leek lentil turnip greens parsnip. Sea lettuce lettuce water chestnut eggplant winter purslane fennel azuki bean earthnut pea sierra leone bologi leek soko chicory celtuce parsley jícama salsify. 

Celery quandong swiss chard chicory earthnut pea potato. Salsify taro catsear garlic gram celery bitterleaf wattle seed collard greens nori. Grape wattle seed kombu beetroot horseradish carrot squash brussels sprout chard.


From the Director

CIRES turned 50 this September, marking five decades of excellent and dedicated service to NOAA and its predecessor, the Environmental Science Service Administration. CIRES’ founders focused on the importance of multidisciplinary research aimed at understanding the Earth system, and that value has not changed in 50 years. Our achievements and prominence, however, have changed—growing with every decade.
    We had three great occasions in the last year to highlight CIRES’ past accomplishments and envision our future: In the spring of 2017, we held a small celebration of our 50th anniversary, which included colleagues from the University of Colorado Boulder and from NOAA, presentations from a handful of past directors and students, and excellent camaraderie. In the fall of 2016, we hosted a team of international Reviewers, convened by NOAA, to assess our performance during the first half of our current ten-year award. And we had a similar review by the University of Colorado’s Academic Review and Planning Advisory Committee, which examines the effectiveness and success of departments and institutes on the CU Boulder campus.
    For me, what emerged from these three events was a powerful sense of CIRES scientists’ involvement in questions of regional, national, and international importance, and the progress we continue to make in addressing these questions. We featured presentations about El Niño’s impacts on California and the West and successful efforts to quantify the impact of oil and gas exploration on our planet’s atmosphere. We showcased CIRES involvement in international efforts to better understand ozone pollution at the Earth’s surface, and ozone hole recovery high in the stratosphere. We highlighted a team that developed the National Weather Service’s next-generation forecast model for severe weather events such as tornadoes and blizzards. These were just a few examples to highlight our outstanding work and its direct relevance to people’s lives. We also used the opportunity to highlight the many accolades that our scientists earn for their work. This year’s awards and recognitions are highlighted in the Awards section of this report, on page 46, and it’s worth calling out two here: CIRES researcher Anne Perring earned a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, or PECASE, from the White House, and CIRES Fellow Jennifer Kay won a National Science Foundation CAREER award.
    During this last year’s events, we also highlighted the work of our graduate students and postdocs, in Ignite-style talks. CIRES scientists mentor and advise the next generation of world-class scientists, and from what I saw in the student talks, that mentorship is helping to create sharp, focused, communicative, and wholly impressive early career researchers.
    I was gratified that CIRES received a rating of Outstanding from the reviewers, who clearly recognized and appreciated CIRES’ contributions to science, education, and people’s lives. In particular, I would like to thank Associate Director Bill Lewis and our former Associate Director for Science, Kristen Averyt, for their tremendous efforts in making our reviews so successful.   
    I reported this spring that Dr. Averyt would be leaving us to take on the Directorship of the Desert Research Institute in Nevada.  While we miss her contributions to CIRES, we are delighted to welcome Dr. Christine Wiedinmyer, a highly accomplished atmospheric chemist, as our new Associate Director for Science.
    It is also my great pleasure to welcome EarthLab to CIRES. This innovative new team of about 20 people, led by Jennifer Balch (Dept. of Geography) moved under the CIRES administrative umbrella July 1 this year.
    This year, we grew the administrative team slightly, adding one new positions in Finance and one in HR, to help deal with relentless proposal writing by CIRES scientists, and the hiring of research scientists, staff, and students to meet our expanding needs.
    Finally, I’m gratified to report that CIRES’ scientific and administrative successes are reflected in our finances. In FY2017, our expenditures were nearly $88 million, which comprised roughly one-sixth of the University’s research funding. About half of our support was from the cooperative agreement with NOAA, and we continued to leverage this investment, and support from the university, to secure more than $37 million in additional funding from diverse other sources.
    We have had another excellent year at CIRES, and I want to extend my deepest appreciation to every member of our team, from our scientists, engineers and developers to our staff and students, who continue to make CIRES the great success that it is and an organization of which we can all be very proud.

Waleed Abdalati
CIRES Director

CIRES: Science in Service to Society

The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) is an international leader in research, addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing the planet. Many of these challenges are priorities for NOAA, such as adapting to and mitigating climate change and conducting research that aids decision makers from the local to the international level. Since its inception as NOAA’s first cooperative institute—now, almost 50 years ago—CIRES has been helping NOAA meet these and other strategic goals by hiring and supporting some of the best and brightest Earth scientists and students, and leveraging NOAA investments with partnerships and funding from other institutions around the world. Our researchers use time-honored and cutting-edge approaches to study diverse aspects of Earth system science, with a focus on “use-inspired” research. That is, CIRES science seeks to improve fundamental understanding of the changing world and to produce applications that are useful and used by decision-makers. Here we highlight a few of the past year’s activities and successes as they align with NOAA’s priorities: the overarching goals and enterprise objectives outlined in NOAA’s Next Generation Strategic Plan.

This is CIRES

CIRES' mission is to conduct innovative research that advances our understanding of the global, regional, and local environments and the human relationship with those environments, for the benefit of society.

Established in 1967, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) facilitates collaboration between the University of Colorado Boulder and the NOAA. Our original and continuing purpose is to support NOAA’s mission by facilitating research that crosscuts traditional scientific fields. By bringing scientists from CU Boulder departments and NOAA groups together into a network of CIRES divisions, centers, and programs, CIRES researchers can explore all aspects of the Earth system. These partnerships foster innovation, rapid-response capabilities, and an interdisciplinary approach to complex environmental challenges. The work of the CIRES enterprise strengthens the scientific foundation upon which NOAA’s environmental intelligence services depend, and allows coordinated studies on a scale that could not be addressed by university research units or NOAA alone.


The Council of Fellows and the Executive Committee, with input from the CIRES Members’ Council, advise CIRES Director Waleed Abdalati. The CIRES Centers—the Center for Limnology, the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, the Earth Science and Observation Center, and the National Snow and Ice Data Center—along with our other programs link NOAA to nine university departments. Coordination among all these entities is facilitated through the CIRES administration. 

The CIRES Team FY2017

Faculty Lines—21
Research Scientists—244
Associate Scientists—294
Visiting Scientists—12
Postdoctoral Researchers—25
Administrative Staff—36
Graduate Students—104
Undergraduate Students—107


For an accessible PDF of this chart, click here.


The governance and management of CIRES is provided through its Council of Fellows, an adivsory Executive Committee, and the CIRES Members' Council. The CIRES Centers link NOAA to 11 different university departments. Coordination among all these entitites is facilitated through the Communications group.

Finance & Governance


During the university fiscal year of July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, CIRES had total expenditures of nearly $88 million, including the university portion (graph 1).
CIRES researchers enjoy enviable success in obtaining external research awards, which comprise ~42 percent of total expenses). Graph 2 breaks down our contracts and grant funding by main sources.
Graph 3 provides an overall look at our Cooperative Agreement funding, by task. Task I funding (further described in graph 4) is for CIRES administration and internal scientific programs, such as the Visiting Fellows and Graduate Student Research Award programs. Task II funds CIRES’ collaboration with NOAA groups in Boulder, Colorado. Task III funds support individual CIRES investigators who conduct stand-alone projects under the umbrella of our Cooperative Agreement, at NOAA’s request.

NOAA Cooperative Agreements  
NA12OAR4320137—CIRES Five-Year Cooperative Agreement: 9/1/2012 - 8/31/2017
NA15OAR4320137—CIRES Five-Year Cooperative Agreement (new award no.): 9/1/2015 - 8/31/2017

For an accessible PDF of these charts, click here.



The governance and management of CIRES is provided through its Council of Fellows, an adivsory Executive Committee, and the CIRES Members' Council. The CIRES Centers link NOAA to 11 different university departments. Coordination among all these entitites is facilitated through the Communications group.

Council of Fellows

The Council of Fellows constitutes the Board of Directors and chief advisory body of CIRES. Fellows are selected because of their outstanding achievements and abilities in diverse areas of environmental sciences. These university faculty, research scientists, and government scientists and Fellows form the core of our institute. Members of the Council of Fellows:

  • provide leadership at all levels in environmental science,
  • maintain an active scienti c research and education program,
  • support the CIRES infrastructure through indirect cost recovery and in-kind contributions,
  • advise CIRES management, and
  • contribute interdisciplinary expertise and participate in collaborative work.

Fellows personify the spirit of collaboration that is the founding principle of the NOAA Cooperative Institutes Program. Ex-officio individuals include representatives of the Members’ Council and CIRES administration. Fellows meetings are held monthly during the academic year. During this reporting period, the Council of Fellows met: September 22, October 20, November 17, and December 8 of 2016; and January 26, February 16, March 16, and April 13 of 2017. More details about the 42 members of the Council of Fellows here (LINK TO FELLOWS SECTION).

Executive Committee

The Executive Committee assists and advises the director in matters regarding strategic management of the institute. Members of the Executive Committee include the associate directors for CIRES’ six divisions, four Fellows elected at large for two-year terms (renewable for one term), and two Members’ Council representatives. The associate director for administration, associate director for science, and the director’s executive assistant are exofficio members.

Career Track Committee

This committee is charged with consideration of all nominations for promotion within the three CIRES career tracks: Research Scientist, Associate Scientist, and Administrative Associate. Nominations are made once yearly, and the committee’s recommendations are forwarded to the director for consideration and action.

Fellows Appointment

Fellows of CIRES are selected by two-thirds vote of the Council of Fellows and are appointed or reappointed by the director of CIRES with the concurrence of the Vice Chancellor for Research and the Dean of the Graduate School. Annually, the Council of Fellows considers whether to entertain new Fellow nominations, which are drawn from the community of scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder and NOAA. 


CIRES is committed to enhancing diversity by extending its community and knowledge across the full spectrum of cultures and backgrounds. Staff in CIRES’ Education and Outreach program, administration, and all science groups work to identify programs, mentorships, and other opportunities for CIRES to foster diversity and enrich our professional community.

Members’ Council

The CIRES Members’ Council, created in 1997, serves as an information and policy conduit between institute members and CIRES leadership. From the council, two elected delegates serve as the liaison between the Members’ Council and the CIRES Council of Fellows and Executive Committee. 

Special Committees

Additional special committees are appointed as needed by the director. These include faculty search committees, the University Academic Review and Planning Advisory Committee, Award Committee, faculty promotion committees, and others. These are created as the need arises, exist to accomplish a specific task, and are then disbanded.

Other CIRES Committees


CIRES starts with people. In this section, we highlight the diverse environmental science work being done by our CIRES Fellows, who are drawn from scientists and faculty at both the University of Colorado Boulder and from NOAA. We also report on our prestigious Visiting Fellowships.

CIRES Fellows:

NOAA Scientists:

Stan Benjamin
David Fahey
Christopher Fairall
Graham Feingold
Stephen Montzka

CU-Boulder Teaching Faculty:

Waleed Abdalati
Roger Bilham
Maxwell Boykoff
Eleanor Brown
John Cassano
Xinzhao Chu
Shelley Copley
Lisa Dilling
Lang Farmer
Noah Fierer
José-Luis Jiménez
Craig Jones
Kris Karnauskas
Jennifer Kay
William M. Lewis Jr.
Ben Livneh
Peter Molnar
William Neff
R. Steven Nerem
Balaji Rajagopalan
Mark Serreze
Anne Sheehan
Robert Sievers
Kristy Tiampo
Margaret Tolbert
Greg Tucker
Veronica Vaida
Rainer Volkamer
Carol Wessman
Paul Ziemann

CIRES Research Scientists:

Richard Armstrong
Joost de Gouw
Fred Fehsenfeld
Timothy Fuller-Rowell
R. Michael Hardesty
Judith Perlwitz
Prashant Sardeshmukh

Full biographies can be found here.


CIRES Fellows

The Council of Fellows constitutes the Board of Directors and is the chief advisory body of CIRES. Fellows are selected because of their outstanding achievements and abilities in diverse areas of environmental sciences. These university faculty, research scientists, and government scientists and Fellows form the core of our institute. During the 2016-2017 reporting period, the following 43 were members of the CIRES Council of Fellows:

NOAA Scientists:

Stan Benjamin
David Fahey
Christopher Fairall
Graham Feingold
Stephen Montzka

CU-Boulder Teaching Faculty:

Waleed Abdalati         José-Luis Jiménez         Mark Serreze
Roger Bilham             Craig Jones                    Anne Sheehan
Maxwell Boykoff         Kris Karnauskas             Robert Sievers
Eleanor Brown           Jennifer Kay                   Kristy Tiampo
John Cassano           William M. Lewis Jr.        Margaret Tolbert
Xinzhao Chu             Ben Livneh                      Greg Tucker
Shelley Copley          Peter Molnar                   Veronica Vaida
Lisa Dilling                William Neff                     Rainer Volkamer
Lang Farmer             R. Steven Nerem            Carol Wessman
Noah Fierer              Balaji Rajagopalan          Michael Willis     
                                                                     Paul Ziemann

CIRES Research Scientists:

Richard Armstrong
Joost de Gouw
Fred Fehsenfeld
Timothy Fuller-Rowell
R. Michael Hardesty
Judith Perlwitz
Prashant Sardeshmukh

More information on individual Fellows and their current research can be found here.


CIRES is home to four centers, which represent historic and current research foci. Our centers foster collaboration, facilitating partnerships between federal and academic entities. They also provide an identity and organizational structure for some of CIRES’ major research areas.

Center for Limnology

The Center for Limnology conducts field and laboratory studies of aquatic ecosystems in Colorado. The following describes some research conducted in the last year.

Figure 1: The Blue River in Summit County, Colorado showing Gold Medal status for trout fishing. Insert: Brown Trout, the dominant trout species between the two reservoirs. Image: Jennifer Roberson, Photo: James McCutchan

Colorado Loses a Gold Medal
            The famed coldwater trout fishery of montane Colorado is managed and protected by the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife in cooperation with federal agencies. Some streams and rivers are designated as Gold Medal Fisheries; these waters have per acre of water surface at least 60 pounds of trout and at least 12 trout greater than 14 inches long.


  Colorado’s Blue River rises near the Continental Divide and descends through Summit County to Lake Dillon and Green Mountain Reservoir (Figure 1), beyond which it joins the Colorado River. The Blue River between the two reservoirs and below Green Mountain Reservoir in the past has had Gold Medal status. CPW determined in 2016, however, that the Gold Medal designation must be removed from most of the Blue River between the two reservoirs (Figure 1), where the fish population no longer meets the Gold Medal criteria.
            Two clues about the cause for loss of Gold Medal status below Lake Dillon come from CPW fish biologists, who have shown that trout between the two reservoirs have poor body condition and fail to grow to lengths greater than about 12 inches. Lake Dillon has been considered an important food supply for the Blue River below the dam because of the lake’s population of Mysis (freshwater shrimp, Figure 2), which reach the Blue River through outflow of the Lake Dillon dam. Studies by the CIRES Center for Limnology, supported by Summit County governments, show that the export of Mysis does occur but is too small to support growth of trout below Lake Dillon. In addition, the Center’s studies show that invertebrates living on the river bottom do not include many of the invertebrate taxa that are favored for food by trout (Figure 2). Therefore, the fish below Lake Dillon are not well nourished.

Figure 2: An opossum shrimp (Mysis, size ~1 cm), which lives in Lake Dillon, is valuable food for trout. Photo: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Program

            Inadequacy of invertebrate food for fish could be based on inadequacy of food for invertebrates, but the Center for Limnology has shown that amounts of chlorophyll (an index of algal abundance) on rocks within the stream are sufficient to sustain substantial populations of invertebrates. Several other factors are being investigated by the Center for Limnology and others. For example, algae that are available for food could consist of species that are not palatable to the invertebrates that are preferred by the fish (Figure 2). Another possibility is that the river water between the lakes is too cold, which results in low growth rate.
            Persistence of Gold Metal classification for the Blue River downstream of Green Mountain Reservoir (Figure 1) may ultimately show by example what is wrong for trout in the Blue River between Lake Dillon and Green Mountain Reservoir. For example, temperatures for these two reaches of the Blue River differ only by a few degrees, which might seem insignificant, but in fact the difference causes shortening of the growing season for trout in the Blue River between the two reservoirs as compared with trout in the Blue River below Green Mountain Reservoir, which shows greater warmth because of its lower elevation (Figure 3).
            A Blue River Working Group formed by CPW seeks explanations for loss of the Gold Medal status for the Blue River between the two reservoirs. The CIRES Center for Limnology, in collaboration with government scientists, is attempting to provide new information that will demonstrate the cause for impairment of fish populations below Lake Dillon, and will attempt to prescribe a cure that will restore Gold Medal status to the Blue River below Lake Dillon.

Figure 3: Stonefly larva, a macroinvertebrate found on the bottom substrate of the Blue River. Photo: James McCutchan

Center for Science & Technology Policy Research

The Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) was initiated within the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder in the summer of 2001 and was recognized as an official University center in the summer of 2002 as a contribution both to the CIRES goal of “promoting science in service to society” and to the University’s vision of establishing research and outreach across traditional academic boundaries. The vision of CSTPR is to serve as a resource for science and technology decisions and those providing the

Max Boykoff presenting at the 2016 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Morocco. Photo: Christine Pereira

education of future decision makers. Its mission is to improve how science and technology policies address societal needs through research, education, and service. CSTPR common themes are below.

  • Science and Technology Policy: We analyze decisions at the science-policy interface, including making public and private investments in science and technology, governing the usability of scientific information, and critically engaging the scientific and technical construction of emerging issues.
  • Innovations in Governance and Sustainability: We study innovations in governance and the complexity of sustainability challenges, including the development of (1) new institutions that transcend conventional political boundaries or bring actors together in new ways, (2) new tools and experimental interventions for inducing behavioral change or enabling participation in decision making, and (3) new forms of association in the creation and protection of collective goods.
  • Drivers of Risk Management Decisions: We interrogate how individuals and institutions—at local, regional, national, and international scales—make decisions to respond and adapt to perceived risks, and what factors promote or inhibit effective decision making.
  • Communication and Societal Change: We experiment and conduct critical analysis as we study communication strategies and engagement in varying cultural, political, and societal contexts.


  • CIRES Fellow Max Boykoff presented on three different panels during the United Nations Conference of Parties meeting (e.g. the U.N. climate talks) in Marrakech in November 2016.
  • CIRES Fellow Lisa Dilling was awarded a Leverhulme Visiting Professorship, hosted by Oxford University, United Kingdom, where she is spending her sabbatical during the 2016-17 academic year. She is collaborating with Professor Steve Rayner of Oxford to explore how cultural theory informs our understanding of the use of knowledge in adaptation decision making at the local level.
  • CIRES Fellow Lisa Dilling was awarded a Grand Challenge Seed Grant for a project titled “Bringing Innovative Data Science Down to Earth.”
  • Several CSTPR graduate students received degrees in Environmental Studies: Meaghan Daly (Ph.D.); Elizabeth Koebele (Ph.D.); Lydia Lawhon (Ph.D.); Alexander Lee (Ph.D.); Lucy McAllister (Ph.D.); Rebecca Schild (Ph.D.); Michael Weiss (M.S.).  
Lisa Dilling at workshop in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania on knowledge co-production for adaptation in arid regions. Photo: Lisa Dilling/cires
  • CSTPR hosted several visitors including: Professor Justin Farrell (Yale); CIRES Visiting Fellows Sabbatical Program; Professor Jack Stilgoe (University College London); and Julia Schubert (Fulbright Doctoral Program). In addition, Augusto Gonzalez visited under the E.U. Fellowships Programme. He authored a CSTPR white paper on space commercialization and led an 8-session seminar on the European Union.
  • CSTPR core faculty published in Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy; Regional Environmental Change; Environmental Management; Environmental Communication; Water Resources Research; Energy for Sustainable Development; Journal of Moral Philosophy; Midwest Studies in Philosophy; and Taiwan Human Rights Journal, among others.
  • CSTPR faculty delivered public lectures on various science, technology, and policy research topics including “The Emergence of Policy Coalitions in the Aftermath of Extreme Events: Colorado’s Flood Recovery in Comparative Context” (Deserai Crow) and “The Principle of Justice: From Economic to Environmental Justice” (Steve Vanderheiden).
  • CSTPR created the Radford Byerly, Jr., Award in Science and Technology Policy in recognition of Rad’s contributions to and impact on the CSTPR community. Lauren Gifford, a Ph.D. candidate in Geography, won the first Byerly award in 2017.
  • CSTPR organized the fourth competition to select two CU Boulder students to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science “Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering” workshop in Washington, D.C. The 2017 winners were Adalyn Fyhrie (Astrophysical and Planetary Science) and Caroline Havrilla (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology). They met with Members of Congress and their staff after the two-day workshop. The competition is supported by CSTPR, the CU Boulder Graduate School and Center for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Learning.
  • The Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre Internship Program placed Sierra Gladfelter in Zambia in the summer of 2016.

Earth Science & Observation Center

CIRES’ Earth Science and Observation Center (ESOC) provides a focus for the development and appli­cation of novel remote-sensing techniques for all aspects of Earth sciences at CU Boulder. Our aim is to study natural and anthropogenic processes at all scales, from technique development in small test sites to understanding problems and patterns on regional and global scales. The long-term goal of ESOC research is to advance our understanding of the Earth system and its interactions with human society and activities through remote sensing observations.
Advancing Earth Science from Space
Every 10 years, NASA, NOAA, and the USGS, through the National Academy of Sciences, request a community-based prioritization of space-based Earth observations in which to invest. ESOC scientists play critical roles in this National Academies Study, with roles that range from the submission of proposals in response to requests for information to the leadership of the study, which is co-chaired by Waleed Abdalati, CIRES Director and an ESOC scientist.
In addition, ESOC scientists are representatives on technical subject committees and science teams, bringing remote sensing and scientific expertise to their respective fields. A partial listing of the technical subject committees and science that ESOC scientists presently serve upon include: NASA Soil-Moisture Active-Passive Mission, NASA Surface Water and Ocean Topography Mission, National Advisory Council on Water Information—Subcommittee on Sedimentation, the CloudSat and CALIPSO Science teams, the Western North America InSAR executive committee and the Alaskan Satellite Facility User Working Group.

Lena Delta, N. Siberia, from Arctic DEM. Image:

Cryospheric research
 During 2016, our cryospheric research continued to focus on understanding changing processes in the Arctic.  This research is broad and includes the following:

Glaciers and ice sheets
During 2016, we continued focusing on changes happening on the Greenland ice sheet in a warming climate. The research included monitoring and expanding the world’s largest array of firn compaction measurements across the Greenland ice sheet, which support and validate current and future satellite altimetry products from NASA and the European Space Agency. Abdalati and his students have described a new feedback by which meltwater in Greenland has changed the porosity of the ice sheet, enhancing more runoff in future summers. We have characterized the nature and extent of crevasses around Greenland using satellite lidar data, and used optical satellite imagery to identify the sea-surface signatures of meltwater plumes around Greenland’s fjords, important for understanding basal melt of outlet glaciers. ESOC’s support also was instrumental in reporting and predicting the location and future melt of abandoned Cold War era military facilities currently buried under the surface of Greenland.
Michael Willis was involved in a major publication on the mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which pointed out that the glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) models used for the region were flawed.

Land surface phenology in Greenland and links to cryospheric change
Recent greening of vegetation across the Arctic is associated with warming temperatures, hydrologic change and shorter snow-covered periods. We investigate trends for a subset of arctic vegetation on the island of Greenland, which is unique due to its close proximity to the Greenland Ice Sheet and the proportionally large connection to the Greenlandic population through the hunting of grazing animals. Localized, ground-based studies have suggested some vegetation is drying out, and we sought to determine how pervasive this phenomenon might be. Using a 15-year remotely sensed time-series Thompson analyzed the signal from Greenland vegetation to determine whether or not vegetation exhibited signs that were consistent with the drying hypothesis. While the productivity of most vegetated areas increased in response to longer growing periods throughout the study period, there were regions where vegetation productivity appeared to decrease in response to longer growing periods, suggesting a drying trend.

Arctic DEM
September marked the first public release of the Arctic DEM ( a public/private attempt to re-map the entire Arctic region at a resolution of 2 meters. This is an ongoing effort sponsored by NSF, the Bluewaters Petascale computing facility, and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, with the release of Siberia occurring most recently. A mosaic of hundreds of elevation models is shown in this figure of the Lena Delta in far northern Siberia. All resulting data from the project are being made publicly available. In the spring of 2017 this work resulted in the first known observation of climate-driven river piracy due to the retreat of the Kaskawalsh Glacier in the Yukon.

Assessing the influence of Arctic cloud feedbacks on Arctic sea ice loss
Together with a CIRES Visiting Fellow from the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique Professor Helene Chepfer, and sponsored by a NASA award, Jennifer Kay’s group is using spaceborne lidar to measure the observed cloud response to Arctic sea ice loss (Morrison et al. submitted). The results isolate the cloud response to observed sea ice loss for the first time, and suggest that the impact of cloud feedbacks on observed Arctic sea ice loss has been modest.

Advising Investments in the Climate Model Enterprise
By some global measures, advances in the skill of climate model predictions and projections have been surprisingly hard to achieve. The climate sensitivity metric is the projected global average surface warming, at equilibrium, in response to a doubling of CO2 concentration in the Earth atmosphere. Despite substantial gains in the fidelity of Earth System Model representations and simulations of climate-relevant processes, the uncertainty in climate sensitivity has remained between 1.5 °C and 4.5 °C for more than 30 years. The implications and magnitudes of societal impacts (e.g., sea level rise, drought, fire, etc.) can vary by wide margins over this span of uncertainty. Reducing uncertainty to refine estimates of societal impacts world-wide has been an important goal of the Climate Modeling Enterprise (CME); led by contributors to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and tested in successive versions of Climate Model Intercomparison Projects (CMIPs). The “run-analyze-improve” cycle that characterizes the scientific and technical workflows, leading to advances in ESMs and improvements in CMIPs, takes about six years.
A major, anonymous philanthropist is interested in learning of prospects for “disruptive improvements” in the CME. The potential donor seeks to reduce the “run-analyze-improve” cycle time and foster innovations that will reduce uncertainty in climate sensitivity. Moreover, this philanthropist seeks a menu of options ranging from large grants for a few key investigators to the establishment of a standalone institute, with potential contributions in technical as well as scientific projects that would be beyond the scopes of existing climate science and climate modeling institutions. Ralph Milliff, a CIRES Senior Research Associate, is part of a small team advising the philanthropist organization and formulating investment options. Several community meetings and wide-ranging position papers have been prepared to document and guide this process over the past eight months. Decisions may begin unfolding in the second half of 2017.

Lidar Remote Sensing and Laser Spectroscopy
Remote sensing technology development—combined with atmospheric and space science observations, data analysis, and theoretical modeling—allows us to better understand the structure and dynamics of the whole atmosphere. Xinzhao Chu’s research group completed an 11th trip to Antarctica in early February, and the excitement of working on the McMurdo lidar campaign is still as vivid as it was in its early years. The infrastructure at McMurdo enables first-rate science to be conducted at the bottom of the world, including our work in lidar technology development and atmospheric/space science study for probing space and atmosphere. Recent discoveries from these lidar observations in Antarctica are challenging the understanding of electrodynamics, chemistry, composition, and energetics in Earth’s geospace environment. Recent results, with Michael Jones, include lidar observations of stratospheric gravity waves and ionospheric effects of magneto-acoustic-gravity waves.

Hydrological Research

Remotely-sensed hydrological research is a primary focus for the NASA Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) Mission, NASA’s first ever hydrologically-dedicated satellite mission. In addition to ocean research, the NASA SWOT Mission will study global inland surface water, including lake and wetland elevations, extents and volumes, as well as large river water discharge. In most of the world outside of the United States, inland surface water is one of the least known global processes. For example, of the approximately 41,000 large rivers over 100 meters in width, only about 2,400 have river discharge gages. In advance of the satellite launch that is expected in 2021, annual research using an airborne platform has focused on developing the algorithms in support of the SWOT satellite. In 2017, ESOC scientist, J. Toby Minear, as part of the SWOT project, is participating in the NASA Arctic and Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABOVE) project, one of the largest NASA field campaigns ever. Numerous overflights of ten different aircraft flying various radar, lidar, optical and EM instruments are occurring at sites stretching from the Midwest, through Canada and into northern Alaska. The NASA Arctic and Boreal Vulnerability Experiment project field campaign occurs between May and September, with more than a dozen SWOT sites being flown. By having different instruments overflying the same sites, much has been learned already about the phenomenology of these different remote sensing techniques, and has led to improvements in algorithms for NASA missions as well as improvements in hydrological research.
Most people assume that greater forest disturbance will result in more water flowing out of watersheds. Not necessarily so, is the finding from recent research between the Livneh laboratory and collaboration with the University of Alaska, Southeast. By combining 30-m global forest disturbance datasets with long-term, ongoing USGS streamflow observations, ESOC scientists were able to accurately monitor when and where disturbance occurs, and tie that disturbance to disruptions in the water outputs of critical watersheds across the nation. Using a large-sample of watersheds with high quality data from southern Florida to northwest Washington, ESOC scientists found that after a forest disturbance event, streamflow can increase or decrease depending on critical landscape factors, as described below.
Highly disturbed, arid watersheds with low soil-to-water contact time ratios are the most likely to see increases in water yield following disturbance, with response magnitude positively correlated with the extent of disturbance. Watersheds dominated by deciduous forest with low bulk density soils generally showed reduced yield post-disturbance. Post-disturbance streamflow timing change was associated with climate, forest type, and soil. Snowy coniferous watersheds were generally insensitive to disturbance, whereas watersheds with finely textured soils and flashy runoff were more sensitive. This was the first national scale investigation of streamflow post-disturbance using fused gage and remotely sensed data at high resolution, yielding important insights to anticipate changes in streamflow that may result from future disturbances.



Forest Disturbance and Hydrologic Response: (a) Percent of forest cover in a large-sample of national watersheds and their degree of disturbance, (b) watershed grouping based in the change in the centroid of runoff timing following disturbance, either early, no-change-, or later runoff timing, and (c) change in total annual streamflow (or water yield) following disturbance, where watersheds either saw decreased, no-change, or increased water yield. Image: ESOC/cires

Hazards Studies

This research seeks to provide a comprehensive understanding of the processes that govern natural and anthropogenic hazards. Studies focuses on the integration of large quantities of remote sensing data­­—such as space-based Global Positioning System (GPS) data, differential interferometric synthetic aperture radar, seismicity and gravity—to provide critical information on the nature and scale of these hazards. ESOC researchers are investigating the implications and consequences of hazards such as groundwater extraction, volcanic unrest, and induced seismicity on infrastructure and society. For example, as part of an ongoing induced seismicity project in Kristy Tiampo’s group, we identified the first hydraulic fracturing- or frack- induced earthquakes in North America. Induced seismicity is largely caused by the disposal of wastewater produced during oil and gas operations. Up until this work, the direct triggering of events by fracking itself was considered rare or even nonexistent. This result provides new insights into the mechanisms surrounding induced seismicity.
ESOC scientist, Minear, along with collaborators across CU Boulder including the departments of Computer Vision and Geological Sciences, have started on a project to modify 3D computer vision hardware and algorithms to measure remotely sensed velocities of Earth science hazards. Fast-moving mass flow processes in the Earth sciences, such as debris flows, snow avalanches, rock falls, floods, and steep streams, are some of the most difficult and often dangerous measurements to collect, and are nearly impossible to measure with traditional direct-contact sampling methods. The goal of this study is to develop an inexpensive hardware and software system that can be used to measure velocities of these difficult Earth science hazards. The initial application utilizes a stereo-camera robotic vision system to estimate surface velocities in a steep stream. A prototype version of the hardware, running the modified software, has been able to measure surface velocities in the stream. A more sophisticated version is now in development.
Finally, Livneh, Minear, Tiampo and Willis successfully obtained NASA funding for a study of cascading fluvial and landslide hazards in the western United States.





National Snow & Ice Data Center

The mission of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) is to improve our understanding of Earth’s cryosphere, including sea ice, lake ice, glaciers, ice sheets, snow cover, and frozen ground. NSIDC manages, distributes, and stewards cryospheric and related data from Earth-orbiting satellites, aircraft, and surface observations, from NASA, NOAA, and the National Science Foundation. NSIDC also facilitates the collection, preservation, exchange, and use of local Arctic knowledge and observations, and conducts research into the changing cryosphere. Selected highlights from June 1, 2016, to May 31, 2017, follow.

Arctic sea ice extent for September 10, 2016 was 4.14 million square kilometers (1.60 million square miles), the minimum extent for the year and the second lowest year in the satellite record from 1979 to 2016. The orange line shows the 1981 to 2010 median extent for that day. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole. Data and imagery from the NSIDC Sea Ice Index ( Image: NSIDC

Passive microwave satellite transition

The NASA NSIDC Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) distributes passive microwave data from the US Department of Defense Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS) series of satellites. These data are the basis of several NSIDC data sets and many cryospheric research applications, notably to monitor and study ice sheet surface conditions and Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. In 2016, the sensor in this series that NSIDC was using, F16, began to experience intermittent failures and data drop outs, necessitating a transition to the next satellite/sensor, F18. NSIDC had anticipated the eventual transition and was already ingesting F18 data, and was able to utilize F18 data immediately on a provisional basis. The transition and intercalibration of data (to ensure a long time series) was accomplished in less than two months.

Sea Ice Index Version 2

The NOAA@NSIDC program released Version 2 of the Sea Ice Index (, a highly-used data set offering sea ice extent values, sea ice imagery, and more in ready to use formats. Changes include streamlining the processing by rewriting old code to Python, using the most recently available version of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) input sea ice concentration data, adjusting three procedures in the Sea Ice Index processing routine, and giving an updated look to images and graphs for ease in reading the images. The new version improved data quality for the entire time series, from 1978 to present.

Mapping land ice velocities across the globe

NSIDC released a new data set, “Global Land Ice Velocity Extraction from Landsat 8 (GoLIVE).” GoLIVE is a NASA-funded effort that serves as a processing and staging system for near-real-time global ice velocity data derived from Landsat 8 panchromatic imagery. The GoLIVE product website ( provides links to the dataset documentation and data access through the new GoLIVE Map Application. The map application allows users to spatially search for and download land ice velocities from May 2013 to present.

NASA Operation IceBridge captured this photograph of Greenland’s South Glacier, which drains the Geikie Plateau and flows into Scoresby Sound to the north. Note Geikie’s characteristic knife-edge ridges and prominent horizontal rock layering, especially in the foreground. The NSIDC DAAC archives and distributes scientific data collected by Operation IceBridge. Photo: John Sonntag/NASA

The Northern Bering Sea: Our Way of Life

The Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA) project at NSIDC released a web site focused on the cultural and ecological significance of the northern Bering Sea. The Northern Bering Sea: Our Way of Life ( highlights large hunting and fishing areas, overlaid with the distribution of key species. It illustrates that the whole northern Bering Sea is the storehouse that supports the way of life for Indigenous peoples of the region. The Northern Bering Sea: Our Way of Life is a project of the Bering Sea Elders Group, with support from Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

A new tool to map potential avalanches

NSIDC researcher Jeffrey Deems and his colleagues have developed a new application for laser-scanning (lidar) systems that map snow depth at very high resolution, and tested it at Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, in collaboration with Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) avalanche control snow safety teams. The researchers have been using the laser scanner system to craft detailed maps of the slopes in summer, without snow, and then comparing them to snow-covered slopes months later. This new tool safely maps snow depth in steep terrain, making avalanche control safer and more efficient for safety teams.

Arctic sea ice ends the summer low

At the end of the 2016 melt season, Arctic sea ice extent stood at second lowest in the daily average and fifth lowest in the monthly average over the satellite record from 1979 to present, according to analysis by NSIDC scientists. Sea ice extent retreated to its lowest point, 4.14 million square kilometers on September 10, then grew rapidly. At the end of the month, sea ice extent averaged 4.72 million square kilometers . This year’s minimum extent statistically tied with the 2007 minimum, when Arctic sea ice extent was measured at 4.15 million square kilometers on September 18. The record low Arctic sea ice minimum occurred in 2012. The analysis was posted on NSIDC’s Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis web site (


CIRES programs bridge scientific disciplines, institutions, and geographies, enabling rapid scientific response to emerging challenges, and fostering collaboration.

Western Water Assessment

Western Water Assessment (WWA) is one of 10 NOAA-funded Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) programs across the country, covering Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The WWA team conducts innovative research in partnership with decision makers in the Rocky Mountain West, helping them make the best use of science to manage for climate impacts. By keeping the needs of decision-makers front and center in designing and con­ducting research, WWA generates usable and actionable research results and information products.

Drought, ranching, and insurance model structure. Image: WWA

R2X in the RISA Network
The transition of research to operations (R2O), applications (R2A) or commercialization (R2C), known collectively as R2X, is a key goal across NOAA. In 2017, WWA surveyed the RISA network to learn more about the factors that help or hinder the process of R2X within both the research and recipient organizations. According to the survey, most RISA programs explicitly encourage research transitions and dedicate resources in support of those transitions. The most successful R2X transitions were for planning, improve warnings (tornado, drought, fire, flood), forecast or tool development, improved drought/flood monitoring, data input for models, improving decision making, informing water and resource managers, and informing the broader operational system. Projects tended to be successful when there was buy-in from the recipient organization, a need was filled, there was engagement with users or it significantly advanced understanding. R2X transitions tend to be unsuccessful when there is a lack of manpower and monetary resources, a lack of planning, and a lack of social capital with the recipient organization.
Future Outdoor Water Use in the Jordan Valley, UT
 The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District (JVWCD) in Utah is working with WWA on future outdoor water use in a changing climate. WWA provided projections of potential evapotranspiration (PET), and past trends in PET and its components to help JVWCD understand how water demand may change in the future. Using downscaled climate data, past trends in PET and projections of future outdoor watering season length, a model of observed PET and outdoor water use was developed. This model was then used to predict future outdoor water use based on projections of future potential evapotranspiration.

In northern Nevada, cattle feed was hard to come by during 2014, when already dry rangeland dried further. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Drought, Ranching and Insurance Response
Partnering with the USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub, WWA is working with ranchers and range extension professionals to develop drought decisions support tools. WWA researchers combine a drought decision model for ranching with drought impact calculators developed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service. By conducting simulations of decision making, we test the sensitivity of a particular decision to droughts of varying duration and intensity or repeat drought events. The model is also used to test the effect of USDA’s Pasture, Forage and Range Insurance Program, an important drought management tool for ranchers, and will eventually help ranchers decide whether they should purchase the insurance by calculating the likely pay-off of the insurance program. This project aims to help ranchers make herd management decisions in extreme drought, given uncertainties about the market, feed prices, and next year’s climate. Pasture, rangeland, and forage land occupy roughly 55 percent of the land in the United States—the largest extent of managed land in the country. With nearly 43 million acres insured and nearly $71 million in indemnities paid out in 2016, the USDA Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage Insurance Program is the nation’s third largest agricultural insurance program. Insurance claims are linked to NOAA’s gridded precipitation data so any changes in precipitation/drought trends will have a significant impact on the financial viability of the insurance program and on the livelihoods of ranchers across the United States.

CIRES Education & Outreach

The CIRES Education and Outreach group works across the spectrum of geosciences education, including teacher professional development, digital learning resources, student programs, workforce projects, program evaluation and more.  This year the CIRES EO group continued to reach community college students, and to help students communicate about environmental change, supported the implementation of science standards in climate and energy science, helped graduate students to include community engagement within their research work and more.
Some example projects are described below.
Teacher Education:
The CLEAN collection ( is a peer-reviewed digital repository of climate and energy learning resources and is syndicated through NOAA’s This year, the collection of 650 resources was recognized as part of the Friends of the Planet award by the National Center for Science Education. The project developed new processes and exemplars for using CLEAN resources within new next generation curricular units.
CIRES EO developed new next generation curricula in partnership with the Denver Public Schools, Denver charter schools, and researchers focused on curriculum co-development and resiliency education. New materials focus on understanding local and global climate change and on addressing food waste in schools, a contributor to climate-sensitive emissions.
The Climate Academy, a virtual resource to help educators understand important climate science concepts, was developed as a legacy product from previous courses and workshops. 

Poudre High School students excited to compete at the 2017 Trout Bowl regional NOSB competition—they placed second overall. Photo: David Oonk/cires

Pre-College Students and the Public:
Pre-college students make videos about local climate impacts through the Lens on Climate Change project, with the support of science researchers, graduate students and film students. Diverse student groups have formed within Colorado school districts, within the Trinidad State Junior College’s Math and Science Upward Bound program and in partnership with the I Have a Dream Foundation. The program has demonstrated positive impacts on participants’ knowledge and attitudes about climate change, as compared to a control group.
GLOBAL, an NSF CAREER grant awarded to Dr. Jen Kaye, includes an education research component designed to test the hypothesis that approaching climate science learning through engagement with material about polar bears will lead to more student engagement and learning.  Student engagement is measured by multiple methods, including direct measurement of skin conductance using physical sensors.
The Backcountry Limnology project engages outdoor enthusiasts and Colorado students in a citizen science project to help characterize changes to alpine lakes within climate models. Participants work with scientists to understand the larger context, are trained in collection of water temperature and turbidity data, and upload data to a website for use by climate modelers.
CIRES EO completed the 18th year of hosting a regional competition, the Trout Bowl, as part of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl in February 2017.  In April 2018, CIRES EO will host the first NOSB national competition without a nearby coastline. During the national competition 125 top students from around the country will compete for the top title.

RECCS students learning how to formulate questions about science in the forests of Boulder, Colorado. Photo: Lesley Smith/cires

Undergraduate and Gradtuade Education:
The Research Experiences for Community College Students (RECCS) project supports community college students to conduct research at CIRES, NOAA and in partnership with the Boulder Critical Zone Observatory.  To date, all RECCS students have completed the program and 64% have transferred to or have graduated from a 4-year STEM program.  RECCS students are diverse along many dimensions, including first-generation college attendees, people of color, and veterans.
CIRES provides program and project evaluation services to a wide variety of STEM education partners. Of note this year is evaluation for two undergraduate focused projects. UTMOST, a mathematics education project, assesses the utility of online interactive textbooks for teaching foundational quantitative skills in undergraduate courses. CIRES EO also provides external evaluation services for a summer research experience for undergraduates in solar and space science, and provides internal evaluation support for CIRES EO projects.  
Early career geoscientists express a desire to engage with communities as part of their research agenda. CIRES EO partnered with the American Geophysical Union and with experts across campus to offer a series of workshops and talks focused on skills needed to work with communities, including developing a feasible community research project, engaging in community dialogue and exhibiting cultural sensitivity and respect when working with communities.


International Global Atmospheric Chemistry

The atmosphere is the integrator of the Earth system. Human emissions of pollutants and long-lived greenhouse gases into the atmosphere have caused dramatic transformations of the planet, altering air quality, climate and nutrient flows in every ecosystem. Understanding the global atmosphere requires an international network of scientists providing intellectual leadership in areas of atmospheric chemistry that need to be addressed, promoted and would benefit from research across disciplines and geographical boundaries.  Acknowledgement of this need led to the formation of the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) Project in 1990. IGAC is sponsored by the international Commission on Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Pollution (iCACGP) and a global research project of Future Earth.

IGAC Vision Diagram. Image: IGAC

CIRES is reporting on IGAC’s accomplishments for three reasons: The IGAC International Project office is hosted by CIRES; IGAC Executive Officer Megan L. Melamed is a CIRES Research Scientist III; and funding for IGAC — which comes from NSF, NASA and NOAA—comes in through CIRES’ Cooperative Agreement with NOAA.

IGAC’s mission is to facilitate atmospheric chemistry research towards a sustainable world. This is achieved through IGAC’s three focal activities: fostering community, building capacity, and providing leadership.

Fostering Community

IGAC is an open international community of scientists researching topics related to atmospheric chemistry (air quality, climate change, carbon and nitrogen cycles, impacts on human health and ecosystems, etc.) that is actively collaborating across geographical boundaries and disciplines in order to contribute to addressing the most pressing global change and sustainability issues through scientific research.The IGAC biennial science conference and the facilitation of numerous thematic workshop every year provides opportunities to build cooperation and disseminate scientific information across IGAC international community.

Building Capacity

IGAC builds scientific capacity through its early career program and national and regional working groups.The IGAC early career program allows scientists to join an international network early in their career, which puts the cogs in motion to further facilitate atmospheric chemistry research at an international level for years to come.The IGAC national and regional working groups create a strong cohesive community of atmospheric scientists in emerging countries/regions that together have a sum greater than their parts and connects these scientists to the larger IGAC community to foster international collaboration.

Participants of the 2016 IGAC Early Career Short Course. Photo: IGAC

Providing Leadership

IGAC provides intellectual leadership by identifying and fostering activities on current and future areas within atmospheric chemistry that would benefit from research across geographical boundaries and/or disciplines.IGAC’s vision is to link fundamental scientific research on emissions, atmospheric processes and atmospheric composition to global change and sustainability issues such as human health, climate, ecosystem and how individual and societal responses feedback onto the core research-led foci of IGAC.


From June 2016 to May 2017 the following accomplishments were achieved by IGAC:

  • Sponsored seven scientific activities;
  • Endorsed three scientific activities;
  • Fostered three national/regional working groups;
  • Hosted the 14th IGAC Science Conference 26-30 September 2016 in Breckenridge, CO with 494 participants, representing 36 countries.  Forty percent of the participants were early career scientists and 70 of them received travel support to attend the conference. CIRES was a proud sponsor of this conference;
  • Hosted the First IGAC Early Career Short Course 23-25 September 2016 in Boulder and Breckenridge, CO.  A selected group of 36 participants from 19 countries engaged in this intensive three-day early career short course; and
  • Financially sponsored or endorsed 18 workshops across the world on a range of scientific topics related to atmospheric chemistry.

More information can be found at


Visiting Fellows

CIRES offers Visiting Fellowships at the University of Colorado Boulder. Every year, with partial sponsorship from NOAA, CIRES awards several fellowships to visiting scientists at multiple levels, from postdoctoral to senior. These fellowships promote collaborative and cutting-edge research. Since 1967, 345 people have been visiting fellows, including former CIRES Directors Susan Avery and Konrad Steffen.

2016-2017 Visiting Fellows:

Sebastien Chevrot

Justin Farrell

Jennifer Henderson

Uwe Karst

Elizabeth Maroon

Amanda Maycock

Renee McVay


More information about the Visiting Fellows and their current work can be found here.

Innovative Research Program

The CIRES-wide competitive Innovative Research Program (IRP) supports novel, unconventional, and/or fundamental research that may quickly provide concept viability or rule out further consideration. The program stimulates a creative research environment within CIRES and encourages synergy among disciplines and research colleagues. 

Awards for 2017:
Pliocene temperatures from the tropics: the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia
Investigators: Lina Perez-Angel, Peter Molnar

Novel particulate aerosol sampling design capable of withstanding high winds in polar and high mountain regions
Investigators: Mark Serreze, Alia Kahn

Toward a more comprehensive picture of snowpack evolution through the integration of time-lapse photography, high-resolution snow modeling, lidar data, and in situ observations
Investigators: Jeffery Deems, Mark Raleigh

Direct spectroscopic detection of tropospheric chlorine radicals
Investigators: Andrew Rollins, Joshua Schwarz

Estimating temporal variations in ocean circulation using magnetic satellite data
Investigators: Manoj Nair, Neesha Schnepf

Combining satellite and acoustic remote sensing data with a numerical model to characterize the vertical structure of marine ecosystems
Investigators: Kristopher Karnauskas, Carrie Wall

Citizen science, showerheads, and the ecology of an emerging disease
Investigators: Noah Fierer, Matt Gerbert

Nowcasting Geoelectric Hazard on United States Power Grid
Investigators: Anne Sheehan, Daniel Feucht

Application of computer vision to Earth Science problems: An initial application using 3D scene reconstruction and image velocimetry to estimate surface water velocities in rivers
Investigators: J. Toby Minear, Christoffer Heckman, Robert Anderson


Graduate Student Research Awards

To promote student scholarship and research excellence, CIRES supports a Graduate Student Research Award (GSRA) program with the aim of attracting the best talent to CIRES at the outset of their graduate careers, as well as to enable graduating seniors to complete and publish their research results. Any current or prospective Ph.D. student advised by a CIRES Fellow is eligible for this one-time award opportunity. Incoming graduate students must be accepted into a graduate level program at the University of Colorado Boulder to qualify.

The CIRES GSRA is granted in the form of a Research Assistant position for one or two semesters at 50 percent time. The award includes a monthly salary, fully paid tuition, and a partially paid premium (90 percent) towards the Buff Gold insurance plan. Funding for prospective students may be used in their second year if a Teaching Assistantship covers their first year. Students may receive a 50 percent research award for one or two semesters.

2017 Winners:

Tobin Hammer
Project: The role of gut bacteria in passion-vine butterfly pollination
Advisor: CIRES Fellow Noah Fierer, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Jake Flood
Project: How do microbes tolerate the stresses involved in the degradation of pentachlorophenol (PCP)?
Advisor: CIRES Fellow Shelley Copley, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Vineel Yettella
Project: Warming influence on ENSO: new Insights from a novel decomposition method
Advisor: CIRES Fellow Jennifer Kay, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences)

Erin McDuffie
Project: The Role of Heterogeneous Chemistry in Understanding Wintertime Air Pollution
Advisor: NOAA scientist Stephen Brown


Integrated Instrument Design Facility

CIRES IIDF staff: Left to Right: Ken Smith, Yehor Novikov, Jim Kastengren, Don David, Kenny Wine, Danny Warren, Wayne Winkler. Photo: Robin Strelow

The Integrated Instrument Development Facility (IIDF) is operated in partnership between CIRES and the University of Colorado Boulder Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The IIDF is multi-faceted, consisting of design, precision machine, electronics, and scientific glassblowing shops dedicated to the design and fabrication of scientific instrumentation. Staffed by two Ph.D. scientists, three engineers, and a technician, the team has more than 120 years of experience designing and building scientific instruments.

State-of-the-art instruments have been designed and built for CIRES, as well as many departments at the University of Colorado Boulder, other major universities, and research institutions worldwide. A number of these instruments have been commercialized, one patented, and are now in production by private companies.

IIDF capabilities and services include: Microprocessor-based instrumentation; data acquisition software; LabView programming; multi-Layer printed circuit boards (PCBs); wire electric discharge machining (EDM); CNC Lathe and 2,3,4 Axis Mills; CAD design modeling; optical systems; ultrahigh vacuum (UHV) chambers; TIG welding and brazing for UHV; precision grinding; electro polishing; electroplating; exotic materials processing; cryogenics; lab equipment & appliances repair; refrigeration servicing; glassblowing; vacuum dewar evacuation; metallizing and special coatings; and vacuum leak detection.


Banner image: Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) milling machine milling the above aluminum instrument cover. Photo: Katie Weeman/CIRES

Outer cover of a new instrument to be flown on an aircraft pod for measuring optical properties of all atmospheric aerosols. The cover is machined in one piece from a solid block of aluminum. Photo: Katie Weeman/CIRES


CIRES is committed to communicating the institute’s scientific discoveries to the scientific community, decision-makers, and the public. The CIRES communications group fosters public awareness of Earth system science for the benefit of society through its use of trusted and engaging communications products. CIRES communicators collaborate closely with NOAA, CU-Boulder, the American Geophysical Union (AGU), our centers, and colleagues in academic and government institutions around the globe. During the 2017 reporting period (June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017), communications efforts included 32 news releases (highlights follow), media relations, videos, social media, blogs, promotion of CIRES research during the AGU and American Meteorological Society conferences, and more. CIRES scientists and research were highlighted frequently in the media, receiving coverage in, for example: Buzzfeed, Colorado Public Radio, the Denver Post, Huffington Post, Mashable, National Geographic, National Public Radio, Washington Post, Public Radio International, Smithsonian, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and many other local, national, and international media outlets.

News releases:

Milky Way Now Hidden from One-Third of Humanity June 10, 2016

Mounting Tension in the Himalaya June 13, 2016

Study: As Alaska Warms, Methane Emissions Appear Stable June 23, 2016

Reconstructing Arctic History July 23, 2016

Greenland and the Legacy of Camp Century August 4, 2016

Accounting for Ozone August 8, 2016

Methane Leaks: A New Way to Find and Fix in Real Time August 15, 2016

Preventing Human-Caused Earthquakes August 25, 2016

2016 Ties With 2007 for Lowest Sea Ice Minimum September 15, 2016

Losing Its Cool September 21, 2016

Wastewater Injection and Induced Seismicity September 22, 2016

Planetary Tomography September 30, 2016

Study Finds Fossil Fuel Methane Emissions Greater Than Previously Estimated October 5, 2016

The “Fingerprint” of Feedlots October 7, 2016

Stone Walls, Railway Lines and Carbon Fibers Record Turkey’s Westward Drift October 25, 2016

Just Who Lives With You? November 1, 2016

Pollution Emitted Near Equator Has Biggest Impact on Global Ozone November 7, 2016

Distant Impacts: Smoke, Dust from Pacific Northwest Fires affect Colorado's Air Quality November 16, 2016

Sea Ice Hits Record Lows in November December 5, 2016

On the Origin of Life in the Galapágos Islands December 20, 2016

Above-Ground Air Monitoring Takes Flight This Winter January 19, 2017

When Good Ozone Goes Bad January 25, 2017

Preparing for the Worst February 2, 2017

NOAA Instruments Aid Forecasters During Epic California Winter February 27, 2017

Snowex: Science Supporting Water Management February 28, 2017

The Crowd & The Cloud Series Features CIRES Director March 20, 2017

Arctic Sea Ice Max at Record Low For Third Straight Year March 22, 2017

As U.S. Drilling Surged, Methane Emissions Didn’t March 24, 2017

Cleaning Up April 8, 2017

Modern River Piracy April 17, 2017

High-Altitude Aircraft Data May Help Improve Air Quality Models, More May 3, 2017

Saying Goodbye to Glaciers May 11, 2017


Webcasts, photos, social media, and blogs:

CIRES communications provides webcasting services for institute seminars, workshops, and meetings, with more than XX webinars broadcast during this reporting period; develops short education and newsy videos; and provides compelling photographs that highlight our science and scientists. We also maintain a robust social media presence and support scientists with their blogs.



Greenland Glaciers September 2016

FIREX Fire Lab 2016 intensive setup November 2016

Avalanche: snow depth mapping followed by real avalanche December 2016



CIRES blogs highlight researchers in the field: attracting attention from readers around the world. Our special shout out goes to the tremendously popular El Nino Rapid Response blog from the profile NOAA mission to the tropical Pacific.

El Nino Rapid Response Spring 2016

FIREX Fall 2016

Posidon October 2016

South Pole Ozone Fall 2016

Unmanned Aircraft on Alaska’s North Slope, part 3 October 2016

Air Quality in Salt Lake City: A Twin Otter Aircraft Study January 2017

Under the Surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet February 2015 to May 2017

INPOP: Exploring Arctic Clouds Formed by Aerosol Particles Spring 2017

Fires, Asian, and Stratospheric Transport—Las Vegas Ozone Study (LVOS) Summer 2017

Research Experience for Community College Students in Critical Zone Science Summers 2015 to 2017

Antarctic UAVs Spring 2012 to 2017

Spheres Magazine

Produced by the CIRES communications group, Spheres magazine highlights the diverse research conducted at CIRES. Our scientists study all aspects of the Earth system, including the atmosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere. These spheres of expertise give our magazine its name.

During this reporting period, we produced the tenth edition of Spheres, "Water, Water Everywhere…", focusing on CIRES research on our watery world.


Educating undergraduate students and involving them in hands-on research are both part of CIRES engagement on campus. Our institute also oversees and participates in diversity programs designed to encourage involvement in atmospheric and other Earth scientists. 

Research Experience for Community College Students

In the summer of 2014, CIRES and the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) received funding from the National Science Foundation to provide three years of the RECCS program, which gives summer research experiences to undergraduates from underserved communities. With this grant, CIRES and INSTAAR offer paid summer research opportunities for 10 Colorado community college students. These research opportunities offer a unique opportunity to conduct research, both field- and laboratory-based; work in a team with scientists; learn basic research, writing, and communication skills; and present research at a science conference.

2017 Students:


Henry Arndt

Mentor:Kristy Tiampo

Project:The Gold Standard of Hyperspectral Remote Sensing


Lady Grant

Mentor: Tess Brewer and Noah Fierer

Project: Aluminum Phosphate Solubilization of Fungal and Bacterial Communities in Tropical Soils


Rebecca Holmes

Mentor: Kyren Bogolub

Project: Induced Seismicity in Greeley, Colorado: The Effects of Pore Pressure on Seismic Wave Character


Alex McPherson

Mentor: Patrick Sheridan (CIRES??)  and John Ogren

Project: Developing data analysis techniques for observed aerosol optical properties and wind direction at Mauna Loa Observatory


Joseph Miotke

Mentor: Jimmy McCutchan

Project: Quantifying the Role of Phosphorus from the Crater Gulch Watershed in Grand Lake Transparency


Anjelique Morine

Mentor: Rick Saltus and Manoj Nair

Project: Can We Correctly Identify Magnetic Anomalies Through the Crowdmag Application In Order to Better Navigate?


William Radmacher

Mentor: Candida Dewes and Imtiaz Rangwala

Project: The Effect of Climate Variability on Drought in the Great Plains


Sheen Skinner

Mentor: Tasha Snow

Project: Effects of wind speed, atmospheric and sea surface temperature on calving events at Helheim Glacier


Jason Swain

Mentor: Juliana Dias

Project: Quantifying the Influence of Mountain Elevation on Colorado Weather Forecasting Inaccuracies

Research Experiences in Solid Earth Sciences

RESESS at Unavco in Boulder, Colorado, is a summer research internship program aimed at increasing the diversity of students in the geosciences.

2017 Students:

RESESS student Zach Little collaborating with his communications mentor, Magali Barba. Photo: Katie Weeman/CIRES

Zachary Little
Project: Automated Diatom Analysis Applied to Traditional Light Microscopy: A Case Study Investigating VisualSpreadsheet®
CIRES Communications Mentor: Magali Barba

Anny Sainvil
Project: The Role of Megathrust Earthquakes on Episodic Tremor and Slip Events within the Southern Cascadia Subduction Zone
CIRES Communications Mentor: Neesha Schnepf


Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research & Science

SOARS is a learning community and mentoring program for promoting ethnic and gender equity in the atmospheric and related sciences—broadening participation in these fields. The National Center for Atmospheric Research created and administers the highly regarded four-year mentorship and research program for protégés majoring in an atmospheric science or a related field.

2017 Students:

Marcel Corchado-Albelo
Project: New Coronal Magnetic Field Energy Diagnostic to Enhance Space Weather Predictions
CIRES Research Mentor: Hazel Bain

Keenan Eure
Project: The Influence of ENSO on the North Pacific through Daily Weather Changes
CIRES Research Mentor: Matt Newman
CIRES Writing Mentor: Katherine McCaffery? TK - is she CIRES?

Tony Hurt
Project: Examining the variability of diurnal signals across the equatorial Pacific basin associated with ENSO
CIRES Research Mentor: Juliana Dias
CIRES Writing Mentor: Lesley Smith

Ebone Smith
Project: Observing, Analyzing, and Simulating Variations of Daily Precipitation: The Impact of El Niño/Southern Oscillation on Kiritimati Island
CIRES Research Mentors: Leslie Hartten and Xiao-Wei Quan


Undergraduate Research Opportunities

This program funds research partnerships between faculty and undergraduate students at CU Boulder. UROP-supported work is diverse, including traditional scientific experimentation and the creation of new artistic works. The program awards research assistantships, stipends, and/or expense allowances to students who undertake an investigative or creative project with a faculty member.

2017 Students:

Michael Kristofich
Project: Identification of beneficial gene deletions in a strain of E. Coli that lacks an essential gene
Mentor: Shelley Copley

Samuel Wasserman
Project: Three Dimensional Digital Mapping of Potential Bridge Sites
Mentor: Michael Willis

Abigayle Clabaugh
Project: Modeling Effects of Climate Change on Ocean Acidification
Mentor: Kristopher Karnauskas

Selected 2016 Awards

The breadth and number of achievements by CIRES researchers and staff speak to the quality of research conducted at the Institute. From lifetime achievement awards to recognition of emerging young talent, CIRES scientists are among the best of the best at what they do. Among the premier awards received by CIRES scientists during the 2016-2017 reporting period was a Presidential Early Career Award from the White House for Anne Perring and three teams that earned medals from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

CIRES Awards
The CIRES Members Council convenes an award committee every year, to assess nominations submitted by NOAA supervisors, CIRES colleagues, and others. The CIRES Outstanding Performance Awards—given in Science and Engineering and in Service—are targeted at projects that are novel, high impact and show remarkable creativity or resourcefulness. The CIRES Director selects the Ph.D. student recipient of the Reid Fellowship every other year, after reviewing nominations made by graduate advisors.

CIRES Outstanding Performance Awards

The CIRES Outstanding Performance Awards are targeted at projects that are novel, high impact, and show remarkable creativity or resourcefulness. In the Science and Engineering category, this may involve any work that is related to the scientific process (forming and testing hypotheses to further our understanding of the environmental sciences). In the Service category this may involve any work that facilitates, supports, enhances, or promotes work in the environmental sciences.

Science and Engineering
Gilbert Compo in NOAA’s Physical Sciences Division won for leading the development of the 20th Century Reanalysis, which relies only on surface pressure records and extends back more than 100 years.
Derek Hageman in NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division, for outstanding software development to support his division’s mission to collect and understand accurate, long-term atmospheric data.
George Millward in NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, for his uncommon scientific creativity in transitioning an academic geospace model into operations.
Kelly Carignan and Matthew Love in NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, won for developing a 5-day tutorial in coastal digital elevation modeling, which forged strong U.S.-Canadian collaborations on tsunami safety and preparedness.
Marc Cloninger and Andrea Dietz on CIRES’ Finance team won for being “world-class enablers,” going above and beyond to help CIRES scientists navigate budgets, proposals, and university and NOAA systems.
Sandy Starkweather in NOAA’s Physical Sciences Division won for her leadership and coordination of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee’s Arctic Research Plan.

CIRES Medals and More

George C. and Joan A. Reid Scholarship Award, 2017
Neesha Schnepf in NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), is this year’s recipient of the George C. and Joan A. Reid Award, made possible by the Reids’ generous contribution to an endowed scholarship fund. Schnepf works in the NOAA NCEI geomagnetism group and is a PhD student in the University of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Geological Sciences. Advised by CIRES scientist Manoj Nair (NOAA NCEI) and CIRES Fellow Anne Sheehan (Geological Sciences), Schnepf studies the magnetic field associated with oceanic flow, and using variations in that field to determine more about issues such as tsunami propagation, the electrical structure of the lithosphere, and the circulation of ocean water.

CIRES Medals

CIRES scientists are often integral to NOAA award-winning science and engineering teams but cannot be given certain federal awards, such as the prestigious Department of Commerce Gold and Bronze medals. The CIRES Director recognizes the extraordinary achievements of CIRES scientists working in partnership with federal colleagues.

CIRES Gold Medal for scientific/engineering achievement
Michael Burek, Michele Cash, Stefan Codrescu, Tom DeFoor, Ratina Dodani, Richard Grubb, Jeff Johnson, Paul Loto’ainu, Alysha Reinard, William Rowland, and Meg Tilton were part of a team awarded a Department of Commerce Gold Medal in 2016 for their work on the Deep Space Climate Observatory mission, NOAA’s first operational space weather satellite. The CIRES scientists were critical to a team from the National Weather Service and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service.

CIRES Gold Medal for scientific/engineering achievement
Gilbert Compo, Chesley McColl, and Prashant Sardeshmukh were part of a team in NOAA’s Physical Sciences Division recognized with a Department of Commerce Gold Medal in 2016. Compo, Sardeshmukh and McColl and NOAA’s Jeff Whitaker created the 20th Century Reanalysis, a pioneering reconstruction of global weather and extremes using only surface pressure observations.

CIRES Bronze Medal for scientific/engineering achievement
Many CIRES scientists were part of a multi-institutional team that won a Department of Commerce Bronze Medal in 2017, for the El Niño Rapid Response Field Campaign. Federal and CIRES scientists in the Physical Sciences Division of NOAA, the Aircraft Operations Center, and the NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown were involved in the mission.

Other State, Federal, and International Awards

International Awards
Waleed Abdalati, CIRES Director, Department of Geography, was selected to give the Tyndall Lecture at the December 2016 meeting of the American Geophysical Union: “Earth from Space: The Power of Perspective”

Jeffrey Deems, National Snow and Ice Data Center, received a visiting fellowship to work with the Snow Hydrology Research Group at the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, in Davos, Switzerland.

Lisa Dilling, Director of CIRES’ Western Water Assessment, won the Leverhulme Visiting Professor Award from the UK Leverhulme Trust.

Bob Evans of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division received the Joseph C. Farman Award, from the International Ozone Commission, granted to outstanding scientists who have created and used high-quality, long-term time series of atmospheric measurements.

Florence Fetterer in the National Snow and Ice Data Center was a co-recipient of the Alan Berman Research Publication Award from the Naval Research Laboratory for a 2015 publication in Cryosphere. Fetterer also was part of the team awarded the 2016 International Data Rescue Award in the Geosciences from Elsevier and the Interdisciplinary Earth Data Alliance for their efforts in digitizing the Roger G. Barry Archive.

Noah Fierer, Jose-Luis Jimenez, Julienne Stroeve and Mark Serreze were recognized as “2016 Highly Cited Researchers” by Clarivate Analytics.

R. Michael Hardesty, affiliated with NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Division, won a lifetime achievement award from the International Coordination-group for Laser Atmospheric Studies for “sustained outstanding and innovative achievements in the areas of lidar techniques, technologies, and observations.”

Birgit Hassler in NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Division received the Dobson Award from the International Ozone Commission, for an early career scientist who published outstanding work in the atmospheric sciences.

Dale Hurst in NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division, won the World Meteorological Organization’s Professor Vilho Väisälä Award for an outstanding research paper.
Jennifer Kay, CIRES Fellow, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, earned the American Meteorological Society Henry G. Houghton Award, given to promising young or early-career scientists who have demonstrated outstanding ability.

Lora Koenig of the National Snow and Ice Data Center was elected by the cryospheric community to serve as President of the American Geophysical Union’s Cryosphere Focus Group.

Larisza Krista, who works in National Centers for Environmental Information, served as keynote Speaker at the Royal Astronomical Society Specialist Meeting, Royal Astronomical Society (UK).

Stuart McKeen in NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Division was part of a team awarded the 2016 Haagen-Smit Award Elsevier Press for an exceptional paper published in the journal Atmospheric Environment.

Judith Perlwitz, CIRES Fellow, NOAA Physical Sciences Division, was elected a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

Irina Petropavlovskikh, in NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division, was elected as Secretary of the International Ozone Commission—a 4-year, once-renewable position of leadership.

Allen Pope, National Snow and Ice Data Center, was named as one of “Sixteen Young Leaders Who Will Influence the Future of the Arctic” by the digital journalism project Arctic Deeply.

Anne Sheehan, CIRES Fellow, Geological Sciences, won the Zealand Geophysics Prize, given by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Lesley Smith in the CIRES Education and Outreach group, was honored as a Fellow of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography.

Nikolay Zabotin of NOAA Physical Sciences Division was elected to senior membership to the IEEE.

National and Other
Ravan Ahmadov, William Dubé, Jessica Gilman Abigail Koss, Brian Lerner, Rui Li, Stuart McKeen, David Parrish, Christoph Senff, Colm Sweeney, Chelsea Thompson, Patrick Veres, Rebecca Washenfelder, Carsten Warneke, and Bin Yuan from NOAA’s Global Monitoring and Chemical Sciences divisions were co-authors on a paper that received an Outstanding Scientific Paper award in 2017, from the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. The paper, published in Nature in 2014, was “High winter ozone pollution from carbonyl photolysis in an oil and gas basin,” DOI:10.1038/nature13767.

Audra McClure-Begley, Geoff Dutton, Emrys Hall, Alexander Haugstad, Eric Hintsa, Dale Hurst, Allen Jordan, Richard Mclaughlin, Fred Moore, David Nance, Andrew Rollins, Troy Thornberry, and Laurel Watts in NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division, were part of a team that earned a Group Achievement Award from NASA for the ATTREX (Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment) mission to advance understanding of the physical processes of the tropical tropopause layer and its role in the Earth’s climate.

Christopher Bond, Daniel Crumly, Amanda Leon, and Siri Jodha S. Khalsa in the National Snow and Ice Data Center were part of the SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) Science Data System Team awarded a NASA Group Achievement Award.

Aditya Choukulkar, Emiel Hall, Mike Hardesty, Gary Hodges, John Holloway, Gerd Hubler, Guillaume Kirgis, Kathleen Lantz, and Christoph Senff, NOAA-based scientists in the Global Monitoring and Chemical Sciences divisions, were part of a team who shared a NASA Group Achievement Award for their work on the DISCOVER-AQ mission (Deriving Information on Surface Conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality).

Dave Costa, Leslie Hartten, Darren Jackson, Paul E. Johnston, Don Murray, and Dan Wolfe in NOAA’s Physical Sciences Division, were part of a NOAA team recognized with the NOAA Research Employees of the Year award, not available to non-federal scientists. The group of federal and cooperative institute scientists was honored for rapidly implementing and supporting a complex, multi-platform, multi-organizational field campaign to observe a rare, high-intensity El Niño event in the central, equatorial Pacific.

Raina Gough, Margaret Tolbert Group, was elected by NASA to serve as a “Participating Scientist” on the Mars Science Laboratory mission, 2016-2019.

Leslie Hartten in NOAA’s Physical Sciences Division was honored with the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research’s Diversity Award for exemplary service, serving as a mentor to many interns from various ethnic backgrounds at NOAA Boulder throughout the years.

Jose-Luis Jimenez, CIRES Fellow, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR).

Jennifer Kay, CIRES Fellow, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, earned a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, the NSF’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars.

Amanda Leon, in the National Snow and Ice Data Center, was part of an interagency team working on the NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Applications Program, which won the Federal Laboratory Consortium’s Interagency Partnership Award.

Peter Molnar, CIRES Fellow, Geological Sciences, gave named lectures at Utah State University (Forster Lecture) and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University (Jardetzky Lecture).

Anne Perring in NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Division, was awarded a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in early 2017, one of 102 young scientists and engineers to receive this recognition. The PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on early career scientists.

Jennifer Taylor in CIRES’ Education and Outreach was part of a team awarded the Climate Education and Resiliency for Denver Public Schools category of the CU Office for Outreach and Engagement Outreach Award for Interdisciplinary/Interdepartmental Faculty Groups.

Ronald Weaver, principal investigator and manager of the Snow and Ice Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) at CIRES’ National Snow and Ice Data Center, was one of nine people honored by the University of Colorado Boulder Regents in 2016. Weaver was awarded the University Medal in recognition of his lasting contributions to climate research and data management.



In 2016-17, CIRES scientists and researchers participated in a variety of events, ranging from seminars and workshops to webinars and panel discussions. A detailed list of events can be found here.


Air Quality in a Changing Climate


UWFPS 2017 participants with the NOAA Twin Otter at the Salt Lake City International Airport, January 2017. Photo credit: R. Militec and S. Brown.

CSD-01: Intensive Regional Field Studies of Climate-Air Quality Interdependencies

CIRES Lead: Andy Neuman

NOAA Lead: Tom Ryerson

NOAA Theme: Weather-Ready Nation

Goals & Objectives:

This project will characterize the emissions, transport processes, chemical transformations, and loss processes that contribute to regional and local air quality issues and to climate change on regional and global scales.


Our team led several intensive regional field studies conducted to enhance understanding of air quality and climate, using a variety of measurement platforms and locations. Our results from these field studies improve scientific understanding of emissions, atmospheric chemistry, and transport to support effective mitigation strategies and improve models to estimate future climate and air quality.
Our California Baseline Ozone Transport Study (CABOTS) made precise ozone measurements aloft to help the state of California understand the contributions of transport to the high surface ozone present in the San Joaquin Valley and to quantify California’s starting point for complying with the federal ozone standard. From late May through August 2016, the CABOTS field campaign used the Tunable Optical Profiler for Aerosol and oZone lidar (TOPAZ) to measure the vertical distribution of atmospheric ozone and aerosols. Understanding the variations in ozone entering California is becoming increasingly important as the state strives to meet the stricter federal ozone standard.
In the summer of 2016, we operated reactive nitrogen, ozone, and particle instruments aboard the NASA DC-8 aircraft in support of the NASA Atmospheric Tomography mission. Our field intensive work obtained global-scale in situ measurements by continuous airborne vertical profiling, to quantify the processes that control the short-lived climate forcing agents methane and ozone in the atmosphere.
From October - November, 2016, we performed extensive measurements at the Fire Science Laboratory in Missoula, Montana as part of the Fire Influence on Regional and Global Environments Experiment (FIREX). FIREX is a multi-year study of western North American fires assessing the impact of biomass burning on climate and air quality. Our team performed these laboratory studies of emissions and short-term processing of multiple fuel types in preparation  for examining fire influences on the atmosphere during a 2019 large-scale field campaign.
The urban air basins along Utah’s Wasatch Mountains experience severe particulate matter air pollution, with concentrations that exceed the federal standard on many winter days. Our Utah Winter Fine Particulate Study (UWFPS) used an instrumented NOAA Twin Otter aircraft to examine the sources and geographical variability of this pollution. During January and February 2017, we measured particle concentrations and composition, and gas phase particle precursors over Salt Lake City and the adjacent regions.

(a) WRF-Chem model domain and NUCAPS total precipitable water (TPW) for 1 June 2013, with no quality control (QC) filtering. Six tracks are shown, each comprising 32 NUCAPS profile locations used for this day in the scale variance analysis. (b) Normalized power spectral density of 500 hPa CH4 from NUCAPS (black) and from the WRF-Chem model (red) plotted versus wavenumber. The -5/3 power law slope (blue) and random noise (black dash) are also shown. Image: CIRES and NOAA

CSD-02: Chemistry, Emissions, and Trasnport Modeling Research

CIRES Lead: Stu McKeen

NOAA Lead: Michael Trainer

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives:

This project will use field observations and laboratory studies to provide better representation of atmospheric chemical, physical, and dynamical processes in numberical models, which will improve predictions and projections of climate and air quality.


From June 2016 to May 2017, we submitted quarterly reports to NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System program (JPSS), documenting the progress of this cooperative project. The variance scaling properties of NOAA W-P3 aircraft data and model results (Weather Research and Forecasting Chemistry, WRF-Chem) in the middle troposphere for the SENEX-2013 (Southeast Nexus) study period were derived for 10 chemical and meteorological variables in the 10- to 200-km length-scale range. Both the model and aircraft data exhibit remarkable similarity in the scaling properties of all variables, close to the -5/3 scaling law for isentropic turbulence, thus illustrating the dominance of atmospheric turbulence in determining their scaling properties. We did a similar analysis for several variables within the NUCAPS (NOAA Unique Combined Atmospheric Processing System) satellite retrievals supplied by JPSS collaborators over the 100- to 1000-km length-scale range. While some satellite variables (e.g. 500 millibar water vapor, ozone, temperature) follow the -5/3 scaling law, methane and carbon monoxide depart significantly from the expected scaling, and exhibit characteristics of a noisy signal. Our consultations with NUCAPS collaborators led to two additional retrieval datasets being tested with stricter quality control filters, but with no improvement in the variance scaling. We extended the Fourier analysis of the satellite data to provide an estimate of the spatial averaging necessary to provide useful information. For both CH4 and CO this required vertical averaging from 100 millibar to the surface, and ~300-km horizontal averaging.

HRRR-Smoke forecast smoke concentrations over the continental United Status (CONUS domain for May 4, 00UTC. Image: NOAA

GSD-04: Improve Regional Air Quality Prediction

CIRES Lead: Ravan Ahmadov

NOAA Lead: Georg Grell

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives:

This project focuses on improving the numerical models that combine atmospheric transport and atmospheric chemistry for the purpose of making air quality forecasts for regions of interest and at specific locations.


In June 2016 we coupled High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model with smoke. The HRRR-Smoke has been running in real time since June 2016. Every six hours a new HRRR-Smoke simulation starts to forecast smoke for next 36 hours. We estimate the biomass burning emissions using JPSS satellite-based fire radiative power data obtained in real time. We visualize and provide the HRRR-Smoke output to users via the following web-page:
In addition to the continental United States (CONUS) domain, we also set up real-time HRRR-Smoke for the 3km-resolution Alaska domain.
Our team evaluated the HRRR-Smoke model for August, 2016.
We organized a WRF-Chem tutorial in February 2017 at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. There were about 40 participants from the United States and other countries. Lectures on a number of topics and hands-on exercises were offered during the tutorial.



Climate Forcing, Feedbacks, & Analysis


Figure 1.  Number of days per year (averaged over 2010-2014) that the maximum daily 8-hour average ozone value exceeds 70 ppb (the US ozone standard). This plot shows ozone data from the TOAR Surface Ozone Database which contains ozone metrics at all available ozone monitoring sites (a total of 4,801 sites) around the world. Image: Ozone metrics produced by the Tropospheric Ozone Assessment Report (Schultz et al., 2017), available at: Schultz, M, et al. (2017), Tropospheric Ozone Assessment Report: Database and Metrics Data of Global Surface Ozone Observations, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, in-press.

CSD-03: Scientific Assessments for Decision Makers

CIRES Lead: Owen Cooper

NOAA Lead: David Fahey

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives:

This project will provide credible assessments of environmental science relevant to decision making.


Our team’s Tropospheric Ozone Assessment Report (TOAR) will provide the first comprehensive overview of tropospheric ozone’s present-day distribution and trends from the surface to the tropopause (the boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere) using all available surface ozone observations. TOAR is chaired by CIRES Senior Scientist Owen Cooper and driven by the voluntary contributions of over 220 scientists and data providers from over 30 nations, representing research on all seven continents.
A major milestone in our efforts was the September 2016 completion of TOAR’s surface ozone database. The database contains hourly ozone observations from over 9,000 sites worldwide. From these data, we calculated ozone exposure and dose metrics consistently for all sites for analysis of the impacts of ozone on human health, vegetation and climate (an example is shown in Figure 1). Our database also provides station metadata based on the information from global gridded datasets of human population, satellite detected tropospheric NO2, a bottom-up surface emission inventory of nitrogen oxides, satellite-detected land-use data, and satellite-detected nighttime lights of the world. Using these datasets TOAR was able to classify sites as being rural or urban using an objective and consistent methodology.
We used output from the TOAR database to develop the analyses for the three TOAR papers that describe the global ozone distribution and trends relevant to human health, vegetation, and climate. For the first time scientists have been able to conduct an observation-based assessment of the regions of the world with the greatest exposure to ozone, as well as the regions where ozone is decreasing or increasing (where monitoring data are available).
When we complete TOAR, it will consist of eight peer-reviewed publications in the non-profit, open access journal, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. By May 31, 2017, three of the eight papers were complete and ready for submission to Elementa. We will complete the remaining five papers by September 2017.

Image: and NOAA

CSD-04: Effects of Emissions on Atmospheric Composition

CIRES Lead: Carsten Warneke

NOAA Lead: Tom Ryerson

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives:

This project will advance scientific understanding of the effects on air quality, climate, and stratospheric ozone of emissions from both anthropogenic and biogenic sources.


Biomass burning emissions

As anthropogenic emissions, such as vehicle exhaust, are decreasing, an important focus for our research is on biomass burning emissions, because wildfires have become a large factor in air quality in the United States.
The Fire Influence on Regional and Global Environments Experiment (FIREX) is a multi-year study of western North American fires to assess the impact of biomass burning on climate and air quality. As part of FIREX, many CIRES researchers lead and took part in extensive measurements at the Fire Science Laboratory in Missoula, Montana in 2016 to determine emissions of gases and aerosols from the most common fuels in the western United States. This “Firelab” experiment brought together the largest set of common and novel instruments to look at biomass burning emissions in the most detail to date.
One example of our novel results obtained at the Firelab is that the pyrolysis of lignin, which partly consists of highly functional aromatics, emits functional aromatics. At low temperature burning, the emitted aromatics are highly functional and get less and less functionalized the higher the fire temperature. Using these results, we could determine separately the emission ratios for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for the smoldering and flaming phase of the fire. These emission studies will form the underpinnings for examining fire influences on the atmosphere during the large-scale FIREX field campaign in 2019.
Other biomass burning related research showed that glyoxal emissions from agricultural biomass burning may be significantly overestimated and that nitrogen-containing VOCs such as the commonly used biomass burning tracer acetonitrile are poor tracers for domestic burning, because the domestically used fuels have low nitrogen content.

Oil and gas production emissions

We continued analysis of SONGNEX (Shale Oil and Natural Gas Nexus) emissions data from oil and gas extraction operations. VOCs measured from aircraft during SONGNEX showed that mixing ratios of aromatics were frequently as high as those measured downwind of large urban areas. In the Permian Basin, emitted VOCs included a number of underexplored or previously unreported species, including nitrogen heterocycles such as pyrrole and pyrroline, H2S, and a diamondoid (adamantane).

A trace gas (X) in the atmosphere undergoes transformation processes leading to a variety of stable end-products. This project aims to better understand the key processes that define the atmospheric lifetime, fate and products of trace gases and their impact on climate, air quality and stratospheric ozone. Image: CIRES and NOAA

CSD-05: Laboratory Studies of Fundamental Chemical and Physical Processes

CIRES Lead: Dimitris Papanastasiou

NOAA Lead: Jim Burkholder

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives:

This project will use specific laboratory techniques to measure the rates, reaction pathways, and product distributions of homogenous and heterogenous processes that play a role in air quality, climate, and stratospheric ozone depletion.


Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), because of their short atmospheric lifetime and low global warming potential (GWP), are considered potential replacement compounds for  the hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in several applications, . During the past year, we have completed studies of the atmospheric degradation and GWP of (CF3)2CFCH=CHF (HFO-1438ezy(E)) and CHF=CF2 (HFO-1123). We determined that HFO-1438ezy(E) and HFO-1123  are short-lived, with atmospheric lifetimes of ~36 and ~1 day, respectively. Using the lifetime and infrared absorption spectra measured in these studies, we determined GWP values (100 year time horizon) of 2.2 and 0.004 for HFO-1438ezy(E) and HFO-1123, respectively.
In a separate project, we evaluated a series of the persistent greenhouse gases,  perfluorinated amines (PFAm), (CxF2x+1)3N (x=2-5), which are used as heat transfer liquids. Our study evaluated various atmospheric removal pathways as well as the GWP values for these PFAms. We evaluated the removal of PFAm by UV photolysis and O(1D) reaction. Based on the experimental data and 2-D model calculations, we found that the lifetime of PFAm with respect to UV photolysis and O(1D) is more than 50,000 and 22,000 years, respectively. Our findings suggest that the atmospheric lifetimes of PFAms are most likely determined by upper-atmospheric loss process (e.g. Lyman-a photolysis), with estimated lifetimes greater than ~3,000 years.
Methyl isocyanate (MIC), CH3NCO, is a toxic compound emitted in the atmosphere by combustion and agricultural-related processes, thus raising concerns about its potential health impact. The atmospheric fate of MIC is currently not well characterized. In this past year, we completed an extensive set of experiments to evaluate MIC’s removal by reaction with OH and Cl atoms, as well as to characterize the mechanism and products that are relevant under atmospheric conditions. We presented results from this study at two internationally recognized conferences.
Permethylsiloxanes are used in many personal care products and have been recently detected in the atmosphere, where they decompose by reaction with OH radicals. These reaction products might contribute to new particle and secondary organic aerosol formation. We measured infrared absorption spectra of linear and cyclic permethylsiloxanes (a total of 8 compounds) and their OH radical reaction rate coefficients in this project.


Baasandorj et al. 2016.
Papadimitriou et al. 2016.


Preliminary data comparing aircraft measurements of mineral dust aerosol mass over the Pacific Ocean (colored lines) with output from the Community Earth System Model (colored background). Image: Karl Froyd/CIRES and NOAA

CSD-06: Aerosol Formation, Composition, Properties, and Interactions with Clouds

CIRES Lead: Barbara Ervens

NOAA Lead: Dan Murphy

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives: This project will investigate the origins, transformations, and fate of aerosols in the atmosphere, including both direct and indirect (interactions with clouds) radiative effects.


Aerosol formation, composition, properties

Remote sampling of mineral dust and other climate-relevant aerosol: We participated in the NASA Atmospheric Tomography field campaign to sample the vertical and geographic distribution of aerosol species in the remote Pacific and Atlantic basins. During the first two deployments, we measured aerosol size and composition for species with high relevance to global climate, including particle nuclei, mineral dust, biomass burning particles, and sea salt. We are comparing our measured aerosol products to predictions from different global models to investigate long-range transport, aerosol removal, and potential to affect cloud formation.

Anthropogenic influence on lower stratospheric aerosol: We used the Community Earth System Model to predict the anthropogenic component of lower stratospheric sulfate and organic aerosol by comparing pre-industrial and modern emissions scenarios. In situ aircraft measurements helped us validate the model predictions. Simulations indicate that non-volcanic stratospheric aerosol optical depth has increased 77 percent since preindustrial times, and anthropogenic organic aerosol constitute a significant fraction of that increase (Yu et al., 2016).

Aerosol pH and secondary organic aerosol formation: Using measured aerosol and gas phase composition in combination with a thermodynamic model, we accurately determined aerosol pH in an urban environment (Guo et al., 2017). These results lead to improved quantification of reactive uptake of some gas phase species onto aerosol particles, as some reactions strongly depend on pH.

Aerosol mass formation in clouds: We developed a new parameterization of sulfate and secondary organic aerosol formation in clouds. We showed, based on process model studies, that the number of microphysical cloud parameters (number of drop size classes) can be greatly reduced to one representative size: = effective diameter, which is proportional to the volume-to-surface ratio of the drop population (McVay and Ervens, 2017).

Representation of clouds in models

Radiation effects on clouds: To explore thermal radiation effects on cloud formation, cloud properties and cloud field properties, we implemented a 3D thermal radiative transfer code (Klinger and Mayer, 2016) into our large-eddy simulation and coupled it to our bin-microphysics scheme.

Network Theory to Understand Cloud Systems: With CIRES Innovative Research Project funding,we completed an analysis of the structure and arrangement of cellular stratocumulus clouds based on interpreting large-eddy simulation output as a dynamic cellular network. The network analysis finds the cellular pattern to be scale-invariant. A simple network model can explain the arrangement of cloud cells from stratocumulus-specific versions of cell division and cell merging.

Stratocumulus properties: We investigated the role of mesoscale organization for the properties of a low, non-precipitating stratocumulus cloud using large-eddy simulations. We found that entrainment, cloud water content, and the cloud radiative effect depend on the aspect ratio of mesoscale organization, and that entrainment is driven by vertical motion. As a consequence, high-resolution stratocumulus simulations exhibit a hitherto unrecognized domain size dependence that may carry over to large scale models (Kazil et al., 2017). Furthermore, we developed a Lagrangian large-eddy simulation approach for use with large-scale reanalysis data to investigate aerosol-cloud interactions.


Guo, H., Liu, J., Froyd, K.D., Robert, J. M., Veres, P. R., Hayes, P. L., Jimenez, J. L., Nenes, A., and Weber, R. J.: Fine particle pH and gas-particle phase partitioning of inorganic species in Pasadena, California, during the 2010 CalNex campaign, Atmos Chem Phys, 17, 5703–5719, doi:10.5194/acp-17-5703-2017 (2017).

Kazil, J., Yamaguchi, T., and Feingold, G.: Mesoscale organization, entrainment, and the properties of a closed-cell stratocumulus cloud, JOURNAL OF ADVANCES IN MODELING EARTH SYSTEMS, 2017MS001072, 2017, submitted.

McVay, R., and B. Ervens, A microphysical parameterization of aqSOA and sulfate formation in clouds, Geophysical Research Letters, 2017, submitted.

Yamaguchi, T; Feingold, G; Larson, VE; Framework for improvement by vertical enhancement: A simple approach to improve representation of low and high-level clouds in large-scale models; JOURNAL OF ADVANCES IN MODELING EARTH SYSTEMS; 9, 1, 627-646, DOI: 10.1002/2016MS000815

Yu et al. 2016.


NASA WB-57F high-altitude research aircraft in Guam after completing the first science flight of the Pacific Oxidants, Sulfur, Ice, Dehydration and Convection mission on October 12, 2016. CIRES scientists in NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Division operated four of the 11 instruments in the payload. Photo: Troy Thornberry/CIRES and NOAA

CSD-07: Atmospheric Measurements and Impacts of Aerosols, Black Carbon, and Water Vapor

CIRES Lead: Troy Thornberry

NOAA Lead: Ru-Shan Gao

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives:

This project will provide improved measurement capability and data for atmospheric aerosols (including black carbon) and water vapor. Analyses and modeling results will lead to more accurate representation of these critical species in numerical models, which will advance the scientific understanding of their climate impacts.


We made measurements of black carbon aerosol mass loadings in the remote atmosphere over both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as part of the NASA Atmospheric Tomography (ATom) mission deployments in August 2016 and February 2017. Sampling spanned latitudes from the Arctic to Antarctic and heights from near the surface to 12 km altitude. We began analysis of the observations and published a manuscript in Aerosol Science and Technology, describing the optimization of the measurement of black carbon in aqueous samples using the Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2) instrument.
We flew a Wideband Integrated Bioaerosol Sensor (WIBS) instrument on a NOAA Twin Otter in June 2016, making vertical profile measurements of fluorescent bioaerosol particle number over forested and grassland environments. Analysis of the observations is underway. We published a manuscript in Atmospheric Measurement Techniques describing a new method for laboratory calibration of the WIBS instrument to improve quantitation, consistency, and repeatability.
We flew 10 Printed Optical Particle Spectrometers (POPS) on balloonsondes from Lhasa, Tibet, and Kunming, China, to study the Asian tropopause aerosol layer that is produced by the Asian Summer Monsoon. We submitted a manuscript to Proceedings of the National Academy of Science describing POPS observations of the Asian tropopause aerosol layer and modeling studies estimating the Asian Monsoon contribution to stratospheric aerosol in the northern hemisphere.
We published a paper describing POPS measurements made in 2014 from a series of small UAS flights in Svalbard, Norway. We combined the POPS measurements with those from a miniature radiometer to derive a comprehensive set of aerosol optical properties.
We deployed the NOAA Chemical Sciences Division’s SO2, H2O, O3 and POPS instruments on the NASA WB-57 aircraft for the POSIDON (Pacific Oxidants, Sulfur, Ice, Dehydration and Convection) mission from Guam in October 2016. This mission produced the first in situ measurements of SO2 in the tropical tropopause layer over the western Pacific Ocean and investigated the distribution of O3 in the region during a time of widespread deep convection. Analysis of the data is underway.
We published manuscripts in Atmospheric Measurement Techniques and Geophysical Research Letters describing the development of the new SO2 instrument and analysis of measurements made during the Volcano Investigation Readiness and Gas-phase and Aerosol Sulfur (VIRGAS) mission flown in October 2015. Those measurements provide a constraint on the flux of gas-phase SO2 into the stratosphere and its contribution to the stratospheric sulfate aerosol layer.
We also published a manuscript in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres describing the development of a new parameterization of the ice water content—optical extinction relationship for cold tropical tropopause layer cirrus clouds based on observations from the 2014 Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX) deployment from Guam.


Comparison of annual aerosol single scattering albedo from surface in-situ measurements and model simulations.  Vertical bars indicate range of simulated values for 14 models.  Horizontal bar crosses at median value of all model results.  Colors indicate site type.  Models tend to simulate a darker (less reflective) aerosol than is observed by in-situ measurements.  This is the opposite of what is found when model simulations are compared to retrievals of column absorption optical depth at ambient conditions.

GMD-03: Monitor and Understand the Influences of Aerosol Properties on Climate

CIRES Lead: Betsy Andrews

NOAA Lead: Patrick Sheridan

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives:

This project makes use of aerosol measurements from long-term monitoring sites and shorter-term deployments to analyze trends in aerosol properties, transport and aerosol radiative forcing.


This has been quite a productive year for our project. In the reporting period our small group authored or co-authored more than ten articles in peer-reviewed journals relating to this project. Another two papers are accepted but not yet published, the first of which is related to the Arctic aerosol data sets. The second Arctic aerosol data set paper should be submitted this summer. We also have an additional manuscript currently in revisions.
Our proposal to the Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Science Research (DOE/ASR) program was funded in September 2016. This proposal will fund research into aerosol hygroscopicity, specifically developing a climatology from the network of hygroscopicity measurements over the last two decades and using this climatology to investigate how well global models simulate aerosol hygroscopicity. The hygroscopicity project is one part of a wider project using surface in-situ measurements to evaluate global models. The first part of the project looks at how well models simulate aerosol optical properties at low humidity conditions. In the last year, we’ve attended several workshops related to this research and made numerous presentations on our results at various international conferences. The research on the low humidity model/measurement comparisons has advanced enough over the last year that we are currently writing a manuscript.
To support long-term monitoring sites in the federated aerosol network, we implemented a new version of the data acquisition software at more than half of the stations. The new software allows us to better manage network data over the long-term. An additional three sites (all in Spain) have been added to the network. We are still in discussion with potential collaborators for network sites in Oregon and New Mexico.


Globally averaged CO2 monthly mean dry air mole fraction (red). The 1979-2016 record is based on globally distributed measurements from NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division. Prior to 1979, we show an average of Scripps Institution of Oceanography measurements at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, and the South Pole, with no correction, to estimate a global mean. The dashed blue curve shows a deseasonalized fit through the data. Image: Ed Dlugokencky/NOAA

GMD-04: Studies of Greenhouse Gas Trends and Distributions

CIRES Lead: Gabrielle Petron

NOAA Lead: Pieter P. Tans

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives:

This project focuses on the global distribution of the anthropogenically influenced greenhouse gases: both the major ones (CO2, CH4 and N2O) and the large suite of minor one (CFCs, HFCs, HCFCs). In addition to providing an accurate and well documented record of their distributions and trends, the project aims to use these distributions to determine the time-space distributions of sources and sinks of these gases.


Measurements from 2016 show that carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) global abundances continue to increase at record levels. The year 2016 saw the second largest annual increase in global CO2 (2.98 ppm/yr) since the beginning of the measurement record in 1959—second only to 2015 (3.03 ppm/yr in 2015). This is presented on the web at
Atmospheric CH4 has been on the rise since 2007 after a period of leveling off between 1999 and 2006. The annual increase in global mean CH4 was 7.74 ppb /yr in 2016 which is slightly above the average annual increase of the past 10 years (7.03 ppb/yr) but lower than the annual increases in 2014 and 2015.
The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index details the evolution of the direct impact of different greenhouse gases on global radiative forcing. We updated this in 2017 to include 2016 measurements: We released, for the first time in 2016, a near-real-time CO2 data product called ObsPack. Quarterly data releases support the near-real time comparison with other measurements, as well as the near-real time evaluation of satellite products and carbon cycle forward and inverse models. All ObsPack data packages are accessible from:
All calibrated measurement records produced by our group are publicly available. Our visualization tools and regularly updated measurement and model analysis products provide additional information and interpretation of the observation.

Earth System Dynamics, Variability, & Change


Estimated values of the tail-heaviness parameter E of the probability distribution of small-scale vertical velocities in stratiform cloud decks in the eastern Pacific Ocean on 15, 18, and 23 Nov 2008. Two different methods of data processing, labeled "K" and "W,” yielded similar results. Height is measured in "gates,” with Gate 1 indicating the top of the cloud and subsequent gates spaced at constant height (50m) intervals from that height. It was found that the height of the cloud top varied by as much as 400m, indicating that E depends on local physical conditions rather than absolute height. Image: C. Penland, C.R. Williams, A. Koepke, P. D. Sardeshmukh

PSD-20: Stochastic and Scale-award Parameterizations Informed by Observations

CIRES Lead: Prashant Sardeshmukh

NOAA Lead: Cecil Penland

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives: This project will show the relationship between regional climate changes around the globe and ocean surface temperatures changes. Climate changes may be forced to a large extent by both natural and anthropogenic changes in sea surface temperatures.


Ensemble prediction systems are essential for effective probabilistic weather and climate prediction. For robust decision making using such systems, an accurate accounting of uncertainties in both the forecast model and the observations used to initialize the model forecasts is critical. Our project focuses on the uncertainties in representing physical processes in atmospheric models. This uncertainty has two components: one directly related to the uncertainty in the model parameterizations of unresolved physical processes, and the other to the cascade to large scales of the local physical uncertainties by the flow dynamics.
We are developing a method that is more general and suitable for accounting for the model physics uncertainty than those currently used at major operational weather prediction centers. It is underpinned by a physically based stochastic differential equation that can efficiently generate the stochastically generated skew (SGS) probability distribution that is commonly seen in the statistics of atmospheric variables (Sardeshmukh, Compo, and Penland 2015 Journal of Climate). This method gives us the ability to represent the non-Gaussian aspects of the ensemble forecast probability distributions.
Our approach is to base the parameterizations on direct measurements of the appropriate variables. For example, precipitation is closely related to tropospheric vertical velocity. Thus, one aspect of our project has been the detailed examination of the turbulent vertical wind distributions from radar data taken at Darwin, Australia, and from a ship in the tropical East Pacific Ocean, the so-called VOCALS data set. Our instruments require clouds to register data, and we measure height from the top of the cloud. Our data were coarse-grained into time series at a sampling interval of one minute, and the SGS distribution was fitted to the resulting time series. The SGS distribution has three parameters, one of which (E) describes the fatness of the tails relative to that of a normal (Gaussian) probability distribution. Our other parameters are related to the variance and skewness of the distribution.
We obtained consistent results for turbulent vertical wind in the absence of a strong mean component, i.e., in the absence of strong convection. In all physical situations of this type, we found that the parameter E, indicating the probability of extreme kinetic energy events, was strongest toward the top and bottom of the cloud, and weakest in the center. This effect is shown for three days in November 2008 in the figure.

(a) – (f) Composite SSMIS satellite imagery of integrated water vapor (IWV in cm; see color scale) constructed from polar-orbiting swaths between 0000 and 1159 UTC on 20-25 January 2015. The dashed box in each panel shows the main region of interest for the study. Bold numbers mark the six frontal waves along the atmospheric river; the white star denotes the position of the NOAA Ron H Brown. Image: NOAA ESRL Physical Sciences Division.


PSD-22: Predictive Understanding of Tropical-Extratropical Coupling, Moisture Transport and Heavy Precipitation

CIRES Lead: Darren Jackson

NOAA Lead: George Kiladis

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives:

This project addresses regional use of climate information.


We conducted process studies of atmospheric rivers (AR) along the U.S. West Coast using a diverse set of observations and modelling techniques. The team’s CalWater 2015 field program produced a unique set of observations from ship, aircraft, and land to conduct these process studies. A diagnostic study of a British Columbia AR landfall associated with heavy precipitation during the CalWater 2015 field campaign revealed the kinematic and thermodynamic structure of a long-lived AR that resulted in heavy precipitation in British Columbia. We integrated profile information from rawinsondes and dropsondes, radar observations from ship and aircraft, and surface sensible and latent heat flux observations from the ship in this study to develop a detailed description of processes associated with an AR.
We identified six transient frontal waves along the AR and the evolution of the AR structure and precipitation, described in a journal article that has been accepted for publication. In a separate AR study examining precipitation processes along the U.S. West Coast, we took aerosol observations along the coast of central California, which show an unexpected local source of ice nucleating particles (INP) contributing to precipitation along the coastal mountains during an wintertime AR event. These results highlight the need to examine both water vapor transport and aerosol contributions to precipitation processes along the West Coast.
We conducted model simulations using three climate models to investigate how the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) impacts precipitation along the U.S. West Coast. Simulations conducted for a 34-year period (1979-2013) examined atmospheric circulation and precipitation patterns based on various ENSO states (El Niño, La Niña, neutral, all). Our results showed that precipitation and atmospheric circulation patterns remained similar for these different ENSO states, but wetter years have a greater frequency of precipitation days than drier years. We found these wetter years were associated with El Niño.


PSD-23: Lead the Planning and Execution of Large-Scale National and International, Multi-Institutional Field Campaigns to Observe and Understand the Coupled Behavior of the Atmosphere Over Land, Oceans, Ice, and Snow

CIRES Lead: Matt Newman

NOAA Lead: Allen White

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives:

This project specifically addresses regional climate predictions.


We conducted two major field programs under this project: the El Niño Rapid Response Experiment (ENRR) and the Southern Ocean Seagoing Air-Sea Flux System deployment as part of the CAPRICORN project (Clouds, Aerosols, Precipitation and Atmospheric Composition Over the Southern Ocean). More information can be found at and
For ENRR, PSD was involved in observations from many places and platforms: Christmas Island, the NOAA research vessel Ronald H. Brown, the NOAA G-IV aircraft, and NASA’s Global Hawk aircraft. The goal of ENRR was to capture observations of tropical convection and coupling to mid-latitudes during the strong El Niño in the winter of 2015-2016. ENRR data are available in the PSD archive. We have just started research on the observations, but a few papers have been submitted including an overview to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (Dole et al., Advancing Science and Services during the 2015-16 El Niño: The NOAA El Niño Rapid Response Field Campaign).
For the Southern Ocean study, we installed NOAA’s seagoing Air-Sea Flux System on a new research vessel, the research vessel Investigator, operated by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). We are collaborating with CSIRO and scientists from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to investigate the interaction of air-sea fluxes and boundary layer clouds, which will help expand the very sparse database of measurements in the Southern Ocean. The cruise was south of Hobart, New Zealand from March 12 - April 20, 2016. The PSD flux system operated at full efficiency; data are available at The CAPRICORN project added significantly to our limited inventory of direct flux observations at high latitudes.


Total rainfall across the Southern Plains in May 2015. Image: NOAA and PRISM climate group at Oregon State University

PSD-24: Enhancing Predictability of Weather and Climate Extremes

CIRES Lead: Judith Perlwitz

NOAA Lead: Martin Hoerling

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives:

This project attempts an improvement in basic knowledge through a novel combination of models that could extend weather prediction beyond two weeks.


Our team conducted several studies during the reporting period related to the attribution of extreme events. They include:

  1. A paper on diagnosing human-induced dynamic and thermodynamic drivers of extreme rainfall, such as the one that triggered the May 2015 floods over Texas and Oklahoma (Cheng et al., submitted to J. Climate).
  2. A study on how austral summer southern Africa precipitation extremes are forced by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and the subtropical Indian ocean dipole (SIOD) southern Africa extremes. Model results show that the probability of extreme wet seasons is greatly increased during La Niña, especially when combined with a positive SIOD and greatly decreases during El Niño regardless of SIOD phasing (Hoell et al., submitted to Climate Dynamics).
  3. A study on the linkage between the failed winter rains over Southern California and the strong El Niño during 2015/16. Our analysis using large ensembles of model simulations reveals that the December-February 2016 winter dryness was not a response to global boundary forcings nor was the extreme magnitude of observed 1998 wetness entirely reconcilable with a boundary-forced signal (Zhang et al., submitted J. Climate).
  4. A study on the physical explanations for the unprecedented warm equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures during El Niño 2015/16. Our results reveal that this record warm event appeared to reflect an anthropogenically-forced trend; whether they reflect changes in El Niño variability remains uncertain. (Newman et al., submitted to Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Special Issue on Explaining Extreme Events of 2016).
  5. A study on the causes of the Record-Breaking U.S. Mid-Atlantic Snowstorm “Jonas.” We found that over the last century, extreme Mid-Atlantic snowstorms like Jonas have become more frequent. In contrast, model simulations suggest that anthropogenic climate change has made such storms less likely. (Wolter et al, submitted to Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Special Issue on Explaining Extreme Event of 2016)
  6. A study on Extreme California Rains During Winter 2015-16 and related teleconnections. We found that the failure of heavy rains in Southern California during the strong El Niño of 2016, compared to the flooding rains of 1983, does not constitute a climate change effect. (Quan et al., submitted to Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Special Issue on Explaining Extreme Event of 2016)
  7. Research on the relationship between droughts and heatwaves: We developed a conditional framework to assess whether there are detectable anthropogenic forced changes in the coupling strength between drought and heat wave.
Zonal average of change in ensemble spread of zonal wind [m/s] for 20-member ensembles valid for 120-hour forecasts. Left column is from experiments with FV3-GFS and right column is experiments with the old spectral GFS. Top row shows the change in ensemble spread from SPPT, middle row is for SHUM, and bottom row if for the SKEB. Changes in ensemble spread are relative to ensemble forecasts with no stochastic physics.  Results are average over forecasts in August 2014 (31 forecast for GFS, 7 forecasts for FV3-GFS). Image: CIRES/NOAA

PSD-26: Next Generation Global Prediction System

CIRES Lead: Phil Pegion

NOAA Lead: Jeff Whitker

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives:

This project provides measurements of climate related variables at the state of the art over a broad geographic area.


We completed the dynamical core selection process in August, 2016 with the release of the final report, available at Our report recommended the selection of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory’s (GFDL) Finite­ Volume Cubed-Sphere (FV3) Dynamical Core to replace the current spectral dynamical core that is in the Global Forecast System (GFS). A few months later, GFDL released the model code that contains the FV3 dynamical core integrated with the GFS physics suite. This model is referred to as the FV3-GFS.
Since the release of the FV3-GFS, we focused our work on porting the GFS stochastic physics suite, which operates in spectral space, to work on the FV3 grid (a cubed sphere). The initial port was just for the two simpler stochastic physics schemes: Stochastically Perturbed Physics Tendencies and stochastically perturbed boundary layer humidities. We tested the performance of these two schemes in cycled data assimilation and medium range forecasts. After determining the performance of these two schemes met expectations, we focused on the more complicated scheme, Stochastic Kinetic Energy Backscatter, which requires an estimate the amount of kinetic energy dissipated by the dynamical core, and passing this to the physics along with a 3-dimensional quasi-random pattern.
NCEP incorporated the FV3-GFS model into the NOAA Environmental Modeling System (NEMS) framework in March of 2017 and the stochastic physics suite was ported to the NEMS based FV3-GFS shortly thereafter. The model’s sensitivity to the stochastic physics in medium range forecasts (figure) is similar to the old GFS model, but there are enough differences that tuning will be need to optimize the model’s performance. We delivered the implementation of all three schemes to The National Centers for Environmental Prediction in the spring of 2017 for further testing and tuning.
Since the NEMS based FV3-GFS will replace the aging spectral model, the next generation of reanalysis and reforecasts should also use the new model. In order to proceed with this new model, and work out any bugs, we have started a low-resolution ‘scout’ reanalysis and reforecasts. The purpose of a scout run is to make sure all of the machinery for producing a reanalysis and reforecast is in place and working properly before switching to production with the full resolution system, which will use tremendous amounts of computing resources.

Management & Exploitation of Geophysical Data


Landing page for the OneStop data discovery portal developed, tested, and released by the software development team for NCEI. Image: NOAA/NCEI

NCEI-01: Enhancing Data Management Systems and Web-Based Data Access

CIRES Lead: David Neufeld

NOAA Lead: Drew Saunders

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives:

This project focuses on improved data interoperability and usability through the application and use of common data management standards, enhanced access and use of environmental data through data storage and access, integration of data management systems, and long-term stewardship.


In the 2016-17 reporting period, our software development teams supported projects for the Center for Coasts, Oceans, and Geophysics, an Enterprise Security and Remediation Advancement project, and a new OneStop data discovery initiative. The Center for Coasts, Oceans, and Geophysics efforts resulted in the deployment of a Satellite Product Analysis and Distribution Enterprise System, simplified the process of adding trusted nodes and ability to extract data for the Crowd-Sourced Bathymetry project, and supported the ingest and long-term archiving of data for the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf project.
For the ESRA project, our team focused on planning and designing a new demilitarized zone of the network, migrating from HTTP to secure HTTPS, migrating applications from Java 7 to Java 8, and testing and moving software off of RedHat Enterprise Linux 5 to RHEL 7 (which is a more up-to-date and secure version of the Linux operating system). We made a number of infrastructure improvements to update our development infrastructure, incorporating current versions of build and repository services. ESRA also took part in the adoption of Ansible, a software technology to streamline configuration and deployment to enhance the process of getting new software into production.
Security scanning and review became part of our standard deployment process and a number of network configuration changes were requested to provide access to the NCEI security scanning tools. The OneStop project provides a search-and-discovery portal for all of the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service and may be expanded to support all of NOAA. Our team designed and implemented a flexible architecture spanning a data-ingest back-end API up through a front-end client facilitating data research, discovery, and access. More specifically this entailed: A Groovy/Gradle ETL process for pulling data from multiple sources and optionally writing either to local storage or an ElasticSearch index; an ElasticSearch Index updated and defined via an application interface; a Spring Boot Groovy JSON-API-inspired application designed to be flexible in its support of both NOAA clients as well as external partner client applications; and a React/Redux front-end with consistent data flow for highly controllable data search and discovery. OneStop’s user interface relies on high quality metadata—NCEI’s Enterprise Metadata Management Architecture (EMMA) supports complete documentation to describe NOAA’s science data.
Our EMMA team was the first cross-location software development team in NCEI. The team’s efforts resulted in a refactor of all EMMA applications for migration to the secure servers at NCEI-North Carolina—which achieved another first: a high-speed connection from web servers in North Carolina to database servers in Colorado over the NOAA N-Wave enterprise network.
A key component of EMMA is the Chameleon Editor for easily configurable and standards-independent metadata editing. This application is being given extended capabilities, flexible branding, and APIs to provide NOAA OneStop with superior metadata allowing the new Search GUI to provide relevant results and improved documentation for the public of the thousands of dataset collections we archive.
A common theme across the software development teams is a focus on delivering robust, high quality solutions that support NCEI’s enterprise systems. The Geographic Information Systems team developed/enhanced geospatial web services and interactive maps to improve data discovery and access for NCEI. A new set of services provides visualization and access to bathymetric data from the multibeam archive. We made enhancements to the Water Column Sonar, Natural Hazards, and Bathymetric Data Viewers. Our groups created new maps and services to support the Passive Acoustic Data Archive, North Atlantic Seabed International Working Group, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Nighttime Lights products, the Earth Magnetic Anomaly Grid geomagnetic model, and a prototype NCEI Arctic Portal.


New web-based data access page for passive acoustic data archived at NCEI (top), and improved data access page for the multibeam bathymetry archive at NCEI (bottom). Image: CIRES/NOAA

NCEI-02: Enhancing Marine Geophysical Data Stewardship

CIRES Lead: Jennifer Jencks

NOAA Lead: Carrie Bell

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project will increase the volume and diversity of geomagnetic data that are integrated into improved, higher resolution geomagnetic reference models of Earth, which are increasingly important for navigation.


Both national and international organizations contribute to and retrieve marine geophysical and geological data from our National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) interactive databases. We provide long-term archiving, stewardship, and delivery of data to scientists and the public by utilizing standards-compliant metadata, spatially enabled databases, robotic tape archive, and standards-based web services. Since June 2016, we have added 72 multibeam swath sonar surveys (166,619 nautical miles) and 152 trackline (single-beam bathymetry, magnetics, gravity, subbottom, and seismic reflection) surveys (665,729 nautical miles) conducted throughout the world’s oceans to NCEI’s global marine geophysical archives.
We have expanded the water column sonar data archive to over 33 terabytes of data, and made improvements to the functionality and performance of the project’s data access web page ( to enable researchers and the public to query, discover, and request these data. As a result, we have delivered over 20 TB of data to the public. We developed and integrated visualization imagery to illustrate complex sonar data in a single image into the web page to assist users in understanding the quality and content of the data before submitting data requests.
The development of a passive acoustic archive has progressed through the support of a NOAA Big Earth Data Initiative (BEDI) project. We have developed a pipeline to transfer data from the data provider to the archive and then to the public through a new web-based data access page (; figure).
Our marine geophysical data support multiple ongoing U.S. mapping efforts, such as the Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IOCM) program and the International Hydrographic Organization’s (IHO) Crowdsourced Bathymetry (CSB) initiative.
The CSB project, championed by the IHO and funded by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, sets out to empower mariners to “map the gaps” within the current ocean floor coverage. NCEI-CO and CIRES software development and GIS staff successfully completed a 3-month effort to harden and improve the current data ingest pipeline for crowdsourced bathymetry data. Data providers can submit xyz, csv, or geoJson formats for automated ingest, and other formats are ingested with minimal code changes. Like most datasets at NCEI-CO, users can discover, filter, and access CSB data via a map viewer (
We developed new HTML database access pages for the multibeam bathymetry archive (figure 2) to replace the outdated and unsupported interface database pages, and which are more functional and visually pleasing. Important information—like cruise metadata, ArcGIS map showing the cruise track, and download links for all the data files—are displayed for users to easily access. Most importantly, there is now a direct link to NCEI’s extract system that allows users to asynchronously request all files from the cruise with a single click. This functionality resolves a previously identified security issue and ends a two-year gap in service.


HDGM-RT map of total field (F) disturbance, and magnetic dip disturbance at Honolulu observatory during a large geomagnetic storm in March 2015. Image: National Centers for Environmental Information

NCEI-03: Improved Geomagnetic Data Integration and Earth Reference Models

CIRES Lead: Arnaud Chulliat

NOAA Lead: Rob Redmon

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project will increase the volume and diversity of geomagnetic data that are integrated into improved, higher resolution geomagnetic reference models of Earth, which are increasingly important for navigation.


Our team completed a major update of the Earth Magnetic Anomaly Grid at 2-arcmin resolution (EMAG2). EMAG2 is a global compilation of regional magnetic anomaly grids and marine and airborne magnetic data archived at NOAA/NCEI. We leveled data in different areas using a satellite-based, spherical harmonic representation of the large-scale crustal magnetic field. In this new release, we included more data in the grid, and improved the large spatial scales through a revised processing. EMAG2 is used by the public in a wide range of applications, from research into the geological and tectonic evolution of the lithosphere, to resource exploration and science education.
While EMAG2 depicts the total field (scalar) magnitude of the Earth’s magnetic field, some applications such as accuracy-sensitive navigation and directional drilling require knowledge of the field direction and not just its absolute value. We addressed this need with the Enhanced Magnetic Model (EMM), which combines a high-resolution crustal magnetic field model inferred from EMAG2 and a core field model inferred from satellite measurements collected by the European Swarm constellation. Over the past year, we developed new algorithms to invert EMAG2 and Swarm data, and updated the EMM with the most recent grid and satellite data available.
Unlike geomagnetic sources in the solid Earth, magnetic sources in the atmosphere and near-Earth space vary rapidly and are strongly affected by space weather. NOAA’s High Definition Geomagnetic Model–Real Time (HDGM-RT) provides real-time estimates of external magnetic fields derived from measurements by Swarm satellites, ground-based magnetic observatories, and the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). Over the past year, our new model describing variations caused by ionospheric currents at mid- and low-latitudes was added to HDGM-RT, resulting in smaller errors at these locations. We also updated both HDGM-RT and its non-real-time version (HDGM) to 2017 using the latest Swarm data. HDGM models are used by well planners to compute magnetic reference values, and they contribute to mitigating the health, safety, and environmental risks of directional drilling.
The our team also conducted research on electric currents and magnetic fields in the ionosphere, ocean-induced magnetic fields, and the global electrical structure of the upper mantle.


CIRES, NCEI, and co-located World Data Service for Geophysics and the International Tsunami Information Center (a United Nations/NOAA partnership) have collaborated to produce a map showing the tsunami hazard for Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and Adjacent Regions. Image: CIRES and NOAA

NCEI-04: Enhanced Coastal Data Services, Integration and Modeling

CIRES Lead: Kelly Stroker

NOAA Lead: Susan McLean

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

The purpose of this project is to enhance the utility of coastal hazards data through the use of common data management standards, and increase the volume and diversity of data that can be integrated into hazard assessments and coastal elevation models at local, regional, national, and global scales.


Our team continues to update and maintain the Historical Natural Hazards Event Database throughout the year based on new references and new field studies. At the request of the NOAA National Weather Service’s International Tsunami Information Center (ITIC), we prepared a qualitative tsunami hazard review for American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga as well as for the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and adjacent regions. As an authoritative voice in historical tsunamis, CIRES team members, through NCEI, were invited to participate as trainers at the 2016 ITIC Training Programme (ITP-Hawaii) and provided training on the end-to-end tsunami warning chain, emphasizing decision-making using the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) Enhanced Forecast Products. We also developed historical tsunami source maps for sub-regions in the Pacific to support the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (PTWS) Pacific Wave Exercise 2017 and updated global source maps that continue to be requested as educational and training tools.
Building digital elevation models (DEMs) for the National Tsunami Warning Centers and the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP) continues to be a priority task for our NCEI team. This year, we developed six new digital elevation models (DEMs) in support of NOAA’s Tsunami Program and five new DEMs to support the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. We built a DEM for Grenada to support modeling tsunami generation, propagation, and inundation and in support of a Tsunami Ready pilot project in Grenada funded by NOAA and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s ​Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance​.
During 2016-2017, we began work to meet the requirements of the COASTAL Act (Consumer Option for an Alternative System to Allocate Losses) Capabilities Development Plan. We identified and evaluated coastal elevation datasets, including source data, and created a DEM gap analysis report that assessed the quality of existing data and identified areas lacking DEM coverage based on both the spatial and temporal considerations. The comparison of existing modern DEMs with up-to-date available source topographic and bathymetric data helped us to inform the process of determining area(s) of interest for proposed DEM development.
We archived nearly 3.25 TB of coastal lidar data between June 2016 and May 2017. Noteworthy data submissions include post-Hurricane Matthew topographic-bathymetric lidar for an area of the U.S. Atlantic Coast stretching from southern Florida to North Carolina, as well as multiple lidar acquisitions collected for Puerto Rico between 2015-16. We will integrate these data into digital elevation models planned for FY18.
Our group continues to ingest, process, archive, and disseminate tide gauge data and deep ocean-bottom pressure recorder data from several NOAA centers. The DART (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis) data inventory timeline we introduced in 2016 has identified gaps in data coverage and prompted our data provider to rescue and submit several data packages that has resulted in the protection of an additional five million dollars of initial investment. In 2017, we greatly improved user discovery of tide gauge data and products through a visual timeline inventory, with links to station pages, including time-series plots and data access links. We overlaid dates and heights of reported tsunami events, as recorded in the Historical Natural Hazards Events Database, on the timelines to help with tsunami-focused data discovery. Our staff continue improving the technology for processing diverse high-resolution water-level observations to isolate tsunami and other extreme event signals. We implemented a new tidal analysis code to process complex trends and added to the processing pipeline tide gauge stations from the regional networks of the two tsunami warning centers.


The ionosonde field site at Cayey Puerto Rico is being calibrated to compensate for Common Mode (CM) environmental noise generated by High Frequency (HF) transmitters in the city. The calibration data are being used to design improved preamplifiers to filter the CM noise and improve the observed signal-to-noise Ratio (SNR) which will result in improved scientific observations. Photo: Justin Mabie/CIRES

NCEI-05: Enhanced Stewardship of Space Weather Data

CIRES Lead: Justin Mabie

NOAA Lead: William Denig

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project will ensure future availability of NOAA’s space weather data.


Management of historical analog data was transferred to the NCEI archive branch, however we still provide the scientific expertise to assist in data management. We conducted a reboxing effort of all data stored in the dry storage at the NCEI warehouse in Boulder, Colorado; an important step in being able to locate data and eventually move the data to a permanent storage facility. We have continued to successfully disseminate ionosonde data despite difficulties that have arisen due to IT security needs.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Space Port has resumed operations and we made observations of acoustic waves produced by an ISS resupply rocket. We published a paper in Geophysical Review Letters demonstrating the capability to observe rocket-generated acoustic waves at high altitudes.
We have continued field site maintenance at Boulder, Colorado; Wallops, Virginia; and Cayey, Puerto Rico.


NCEI-07: Remote Sensing of Anthropogenic Signals

CIRES Lead: Kimberly Baugh

NOAA Lead: Chris Elvidge

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

The purpose of this project is to increase capacity for investigation and assessment of changing patterns of global economic activity.


During the past year, our CIRES staff collaborated with NOAA scientists to complete development of the first annual global nighttime lights product using data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Day Night Band (DNB). We made the VIIRS Nighttime Lights (VNL) product using cloud-free, low-moon data from 2015. It’s the result of the completion of algorithm development which separates ephemeral from persistent light sources and separates lights from non-light areas. Processing to fill out the VNL time series from 2012-2016 is underway and should be completed by the end of 2017.
We also been refining our VIIRS Boat Detection (VBD) algorithm to reduce false detections that occur due to the South Atlantic Anomaly, aurora, and atmospheric glow. The current version (v2.3) of VBD is now running globally and our effort is underway to process this version back to the start of the VIIRS data record in 2012. The long time series has allowed special studies quantifying the effectiveness of fishery closures in the Philippines using an index developed at NCEI called the VBD Closure Index or VCI. The VCI rates the effectiveness of fishery closures by comparing boat detection numbers within the closure boundaries before and after the start date of the closure. Numbers range from -100 to 100, with 100 signifying total closure effectiveness.
Our team also put out global estimates for flared gas volumes by country for 2016. We updated flare locations using the VIIRS Nightfire product (VNF) for 2016. We used this new set of flare locations, along with the Nightfire-derived radiant heat values, to estimate country-level gas flaring volumes for 2016.


Launch of the GOES-R satellite aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket November 19, 2016 at 6:42 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Image courtesy: GOES-R program

NCEI-08: Development of Space Environment Data Algorithms and Products

CIRES Lead: Juan Rodriguez

NOAA Lead: William Denig

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project will develop the algorithms and products necessary to support use of the GOES-R satellite data for describing space weather with particular attention to damaging solar storms.


We crossed an important divide this year in our work: the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-R was launched on November 19, 2016, and earned its new number, 16, after successfully reaching geostationary orbit. Since then, with real data from NOAA’s new space weather instruments on GOES-16, we have put to the test the data processing algorithms and on-orbit calibration-and-validation software that we developed during the last eight years. We have also started to develop mitigation methods for issues with the data that have been identified post-launch. Finally, we have started developing user community interfaces for making the new GOES-16 data conveniently available to the public from NCEI.
We are responsible for four space weather instruments: the Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI), the Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS), the Space Environment In-Situ Suite (SEISS), and the Magnetometer (MAG). Our team had the exciting responsibility of creating first light images that the GOES-R program released to the public in the first few months after launch. For each of the space weather instruments, our instrument scientists successfully briefed a review committee on the status of the instrument and the data processed by the GOES-R ground segment, prior to the data formally being accorded “beta” status. As part of this process, we identified the major data quality issues that need to be resolved before the data can be considered of “provisional” quality suitable for operational use. By May 31, we had submitted nearly 60 formal Algorithm Discrepancy Reports to the GOES-R program identifying data quality issues that need to be fixed, and this process continues.
In parallel with our preparations for evaluating the instruments and their data, we have been developing science algorithms for creating higher-level data products that the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) will use directly for their real-time operations, as well as the Satellite Product Analysis & Distribution Enterprise System (SPADES) for demonstrating the production of the higher-level data products. This year, we successfully integrated into SPADES the science algorithms that provide continuity of operations for SWPC and delivered this integrated software package to the National Weather Service. These algorithms are currently running on GOES-16 data that NCEI receives in real time, and we are evaluating their outputs.
As part of our development of user community interfaces for the GOES-16 data, we have met with representatives from the Virtual Solar Observatory (VSO) and Helioviewer to discuss collaborative partnerships with these organizations. VSO and Helioviewer are popular data dissemination platforms within the solar physics community that are essential for handling the huge data volume produced by the high-resolution and multi-spectral-channel SUVI imager.
GOES-16 is definitely a work-in-progress, and we will be busy in 2017-18 with the continuation of the above activities, as well as with preparations for the launch and post-launch testing of GOES-S!


Receiver systems for the Vertical Incidence Pulsed Ionosphere Radar were installed at the Korean Space Weather Center field sites on Jeju Island and Icheon, South Korea. In cooperation with National Institute for Communications Technology in Japan, four Japanese transmitters allow observation of the ionosphere on eight over-water oblique paths connecting the six facilities. Credit: Terry Bullet/CIRES

NCEI-09: Enhanced Ionosonde Data Access and Stewardship

CIRES Lead: Terry Bullett

NOAA Lead: Rob Redmon

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project will improve the utility of ionosonde data through the application of common data management standards in support of space weather forecasting.


A key accomplishment of our group was the installation of two oblique ionosonde receivers at South Korean Space Weather Center (KSWC) facilities in Jeju and Icheon. CIRES’ Terry Bullet and Justin Mabie installed receivers and operated them in coordination with Japan’s National Institute for Communications Technology to make observations between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. These are over-water paths, used where ground based vertical incidence techniques are not possible. We hosted Ph.D. student Dario Sabbagh from from Università degli Studi Roma Tre in Rome, Italy, at NCEI for four months to apply his technique of analyzing oblique propagation data into vertical electron density profiles of the ionosphere. We applied this technique to the data obtained from Korea and Japan.
Mabie and Bullett published a paper on the findings of acoustic waves from an orbital rocket launch which create an ionosphere plasma displacement around 200 km altitude. We used the high-resolution data from the Vertical Incidence Pulsed Ionosphere Radar (VIPIR) at NASA Wallops Flight Facility to detect and measure the acoustic waves.
Our project has provided ionosonde data required to study energy transport from the oceans into space. CIRES principal investigator Nikolay Zabotin has lead the effort to publish these convincing results, with three journal articles on the topic, and one Ph.D. thesis by Catalin Negrea, of CIRES and CU Boulder. We have obtained direct evidence of the correlation of deep ocean wave activity with atmospheric gravity waves in the ionosphere-thermosphere system.
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has loaned our project a transportable VIPIR for measuring the solar eclipse of August 2017. This instrument is valued at over $300,000.
We operated a receiver for six months at the Table Mountain Radio Quiet Zone to measure the effects of lightning on the Medium Frequency High Frequency portions of the radio spectrum, and to monitor the ionosphere by changes in long-range radio propagation.
In an increasingly challenging information technology security environment, we were able to obtain and keep 60 real time ionosonde data streams from across the globe and maintain minimal real-time public access to the data archive. Public access has greatly diminished because of security-driven changes and a lack of resources to address these changes. Data access tools such as the Space Physics Interactive Data Resource were hosted off-site, but they are no longer supported and the data are no longer being updated. Changes in internal NCEI computers and policies have produced great stress on this project through loss of computer resources and increasing difficulty to use the remaining resources.


A subset of the controlled vocabulary terms we are developing, together with the nine data types that will have controlled terms as part of our vocabulary project. Image: CIRES/NOAA

NCEI-11: Enhanced Stewardship of Data on Decadal to Millennial-Scale Climate Variability

CIRES Lead: Carrie Morrill

NOAA Lead: Eugene Wahl

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives

Data and research from this project will improve confidence in our understanding of oceanic, atmospheric, and hydrologic components of the climate system. 


We completed version 1 of the Living Blended Drought Product. This product seamlessly blends hydroclimate information inferred from the width of the annual tree rings over the past two millennia with the shorter, but continuously-updated instrumental record. This year, we completed Palmer Modified Drought Index (PMDI) reconstructions for the last two millennia (0 CE – 1978 CE). We contributed this product to NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information Service (NIDIS); integration of the paleoclimate data with the instrumental record will place recent droughts into a longer-term perspective and will enable researchers to understand and predict hydroclimate changes in the continental United States.
We continued progress on a two-year project to create and apply comprehensive controlled vocabularies for describing the measurements we archive as part of the World Data Service for Paleoclimatology. The heterogeneity of paleoclimate variables is one of the biggest barriers to the development of accumulated data products and access capabilities, and to the use of paleo data beyond the community of paleoclimate specialists. We have now formulated comprehensive vocabularies for the remaining five of nine archive types and are working with subject matter experts to revise and improve them. We have also developed the database structures that will house the vocabulary information. This project will conclude at the end of calendar year 2017, with implementation of a new search-by-variable feature.
Lastly, we submitted two research projects for publication that compare past lake level changes and climate model output to understand the causes of hydroclimate variability. We learned that, for western North America, the same factors that caused past extreme wet periods are projected to cause regional drying under increased greenhouse gas concentrations, indicating continuity from past to future in the mechanisms altering hydroclimate. We also found that the paleoclimate record generally supports hypotheses describing future hydrologic change throughout the Americas.


Project NCEI-12 closed in 2016 due to NOAA reorganization.


Map showing the outer limits of the U.S. continental shelf in the Western Gulf of Mexico region. The 16 points connected by straight lines that comprise the outer limit line are the same as those that form the line of delimitation agreed between the United States and Mexico in the June 9, 2000 treaty. Image credit: NOAA.


NCEI-13: U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Project

CIRES Lead: Barry Eakins

NOAA Lead: Robin Warnken

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

Data and products from this project will help establish a new U.S. maritime seabed area.


The  team members of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) Project Office had several major accomplishments this year: we refined geospatial analysis methods, developed a GIS database and workflow for cartographic production, and finalized cartographic-element stylesheets. We used these procedures to compile the ECS scientific documentation for the Western Gulf of Mexico and Arctic regions, which were reviewed by a panel of international experts. We also refined the overall Table of Contents for the U.S. Submission, and contributed to ECS overview documentation on: (1) methods and approaches to continental shelf delineation; and (2) U.S. legal interpretations of Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Specifically, our group refined the geospatial analysis methods that we had developed in previous years, including identifying the base of the slope of the continental margin, and determining the location of the maximum change in gradient at its base. We also developed robust methods for establishing sediment thickness point pairs, developing depth constraint lines, and determining ECS outer limits. Our team developed and implemented an integrated geospatial/cartographic database and schema,  as well as a workflow process for creating these cartographic products. The database and workflow processes ensure that ECS cartographic data are handled consistently and efficiently, and that changes are updated on all affected cartographic products. We also developed stylesheets for cartographic elements and templates for cartographic products. The result of this work is common, standardized, and consistent symbology and layouts on maps and figures used in ECS documents.


Approximate September 1850 sea ice extent is illustrated with the blue line, from the data product Gridded Monthly Sea Ice Extent and Concentration, 1850 Onward. Image: Where Ice Once Crushed Ships, Open Water Beckons, by Andrew C. Revkin, published in the New York Times Sunday Review, 24 Sep 2016.

NSIDC-03: Update, Improve, and Maintain Polar Region Data Sets

CIRES Lead: Florence Fetterer

NOAA Lead: Eric Kihn

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project will ensure availability of data on polar ice and glaciers for research purposes.


Over the reporting period, we made 16 posts to the NOAA@NSIDC data news page ( informing users about new products or additions or changes to the existing collection of polar region data sets. Because the NOAA program at NSIDC serves about 80 percent of the users that visit NSIDC’s site and download data, it is important for us to keep users informed. Some of the year’s highlights follow.
Updated NOAA/NSIDC Climate Data Record of Passive Microwave Sea Ice Concentration: We extended the record through 2016, and completed development work on a parallel data set that will be updated daily.
International Data Rescue Award for Glacier Photograph Collection work: A Council on Library & Information Resources funded project entitled “Revealing Our Melting Past: Rescuing Historical Snow and Ice Data,” is allowing us to complete digitization of the archive’s store of glacier photographs. This project, lead by CU Libraries archivist Athea Merredyth, won the 2016 International Data Rescue Award in the Geosciences, presented at the AGU Fall Meeting. When digitization is complete, we will add scanned images to the popular online Glacier Photograph Collection. We recently added 1,173 photographs of glaciers in and around the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in Alaska to this collection.
Satellite data rescue for NOAA: Garrett Campbell, with help from undergraduate students, has rescued early NOAA satellite data from the Environmental Science Services Administration series. Three talks at the 2016 Fall AGU meeting featured this work, leveraging NASA funding: We are now seeking funding to extend the work to include visible and IR band imagery from 1974-1978.
Sea Ice Mass Balance in the Antarctic: This new product uses observations we made t in the fall of 2007 and the spring of 2009 during a drift program of the Nathaniel B. Palmer icebreaker along with a buoy network established on the Antarctic sea ice. We made measurements of ice thickness, temperature profiles, large-scale deformation, and other sea ice characteristics.
Gridded Monthly Sea Ice Extent and Concentration, 1850 Onward: A New York Times article comparing Canadian Archipelago ice conditions during the time of Franklin’s expedition with those encountered by the recent Crystal Serenity cruise included a graphic that used of our data from this product:


This NOAA National Weather Service Alaska Sea Ice Program map shows sea ice concentration in percent coverage.  It appears in an Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis post. We are working with the Alaska Sea Ice Program to archive their products. Image: NOAA

NSIDC-04: Support the Activities of the NCEI Arctic Team

CIRES Lead: Florence Fetterer

NOAA Lead: Eric Kihn

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project will support NCEI and NOAA's mission in the Arctic by coordinating NCEI broad Arctic observational, modeling, and research data products, and online data services.


Florence Fetterer participated in numerous NOAA National Centers for Environmental Arctic Team activities, and represented the NCEI Arctic team in ongoing work on climate indicators led by Diane Stanitski at NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory.
Ann Windnagel met with the NCEI Information Communications and Outreach Branch Chief along with the NCEI Center for Coasts and Ocean Geophysics Information Services Branch, to describe key products like the Sea Ice Index.
Florence Fetterer briefed NOAA Arctic Research Program lead Jeremy Mathis and Sandy Starkweather from the NOAA Climate Program Office, on how we use NOAA support and work with NCEI to build key data products.
We maintain the International Ice Charting Working Group pages (, and have direct ties with the NOAA/Navy/Coast Guard National Ice Center (NIC) and the NOAA National Weather Service Sea Ice Program operational groups. We publish and archive several products in collaboration with NIC.
We provided a custom version of a 4 km sea ice concentration product to the NOAA ESRL experimental sea ice forecasting group focusing on improving short-term predictions.
With NOAA Big Earth Data Initiative support, we provided web services for the Sea Ice Index. One major accomplishment was making the Index map products available in GeoTIFF format. NOAA NCEI collaborators Jennifer Jencks and John Cartwright are assisting with NCEI data portal integration.


Regional Sciences & Applications


CIRES researcher Guillaume Kirgis adjusts the TOPAZ laser system during the California Baseline Ozone Transport Study. Photo: Will VonDauster/NOAA

CSD-08: Remote Sensing Studies of the Atmosphere and Oceans

CIRES Lead: Christoph Senff

NOAA Lead: Alan Brewer

NOAA Theme: Weather Ready Nation

Goals & Objectives

This project will investigate atmospheric dynamics, including transport of atmospheric constituents over complex terrain, in coastal and open ocean regions, and from high altitudes to the surface. These studies have particular relevance to air quality, climate, ocean ecosystems, and renewable energy.


During the past year, our work under this project included studies to investigate transport processes of ozone in California, observe the wind and turbulence structure in the vicinity of wind farms, and improve the performance of the plankton-sensing NOAA Oceanographic Lidar.
We deployed the Tunable Optical Profiler for Aerosol and Ozone (TOPAZ) ozone lidar in late spring and summer 2016 to the San Joaquin Valley as part of the California Baseline Ozone Transport Study (CABOTS) to investigate the influence of trans-boundary ozone on surface air quality in the San Joaquin Valley, one of two “extreme” ozone non-attainment areas remaining in the United States. TOPAZ was located at the Visalia, California, airport and measured the vertical distribution of ozone during two, three-week intensive operating periods in May/June and July/August. We chose the two periods to contrast different ozone photochemical production and transport regimes.
We observed a complex, layered ozone structure above the San Joaquin Valley on most days of the study. These ozone layers aloft were attributed to regional, trans-Pacific, and stratosphere-to-troposphere transport. During the July/August intensive the primary source of ozone aloft was the Soberanes Fire that burned near Monterey, California. In most cases, these ozone layers were located above the top of the shallow (<1 km deep) boundary layer in the San Joaquin Valley and did not get mixed down to the surface. During CABOTS, transported ozone had only a limited impact on San Joaquin Valley surface air quality.
We continued around-the-clock observations of the wind field near wind farms in the Columbia River Gorge using two unattended NOAA Doppler lidars as part of the Second Wind Forecast Improvement Project, WFIP2. To help improve NOAA’s wind forecasts, we created two new data products: (1) a measurement uncertainty quantification framework, which was tested using data from previous experiments and was implemented in WFIP2 data processing, and (2) a new method to process the Doppler lidar data to retrieve wind profiles at a 1-km horizontal spacing along the scan direction of the lidar. The latter provides a powerful tool to study the evolution of the wind flow in complex terrain and to validate model forecasts of wind farm wakes.
We updated the NOAA Oceanographic Lidar with new amplifiers and tested a new detector. The new amplifiers have greatly improved the lidar’s performance, including better system calibration to allow quantification of chlorophyll concentrations in the Arctic Ocean.


Site study area. Image: Allen White/NOAA Physical Sciences Division

PSD-19: Improving Wind and Extreme Precipitation Forecasting

CIRES Lead: Laura Bianco

NOAA Lead: Kelly Mahoney

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project will show how well models can predict air quality under specific weather conditions at locations where air quality typically is poor.


The Wind Forecast Improvement Project 2 (WFIP2) is a multi-institutional program to improve NOAA’s short-term weather forecast models and increase understanding of physical processes that affect wind energy generation in regions of complex terrain (Pacific Northwest with a focus on the Columbia River Gorge).
Our project builds on WFIP2 to:
(1) Enhance WFIP2 observations with a focus on moisture:
We investigate techniques for measuring humidity using wind profiling radars (WPRs) and microwave radiometers (MWRs). MWRs are passive instruments measuring integrated contents from atmospheric emissions. They retrieve profiles based on climatology (from nearby soundings) and neural network algorithms. These retrieval techniques work well for pressure and temperature, but less so for humidity. Clear-air radars (WPRs) are active instruments that emit signal that reflects off irregularities in the refractive index in the atmosphere. We can use the combination of MWR and WPR to calculate profiles of humidity. We are testing the technique on the data collected at the Boulder Atmospheric Observatory (BAO) in 2015. Testing is in progress and will be evaluated versus radiosonde launches available at the same site.
(2) Compute surface energy and moisture budgets:
We are evaluating soil moisture, local energy and moisture budgets at the Physics Site (5 km N-E from Wasco, OR). We have deployed the following observations especially for this project: soil moisture/temperature (in-situ measurements at 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 cm into the ground); GPS interferometric reflectometry (to derive near surface soil moisture with a new technique); near-surface meteorology; radiative fluxes; turbulent fluxes including evaporation and precipitation. Our approach is to compare observations with various models and investigate model improvements. We are investigating preliminary comparisons between the various observations to identify the behaviors of air temperature, soil temperature, soil moisture, and precipitation at this site.
(3) Improve quantitative precipitation estimation and quantitative precipitation forecasts:
To understand large-scale dynamics and moisture transport upstream and downstream of the Gorge, we have created a directory of storm-relevant quantities from the High Resolution Rapid Refresh model (HRRR, 3-km grid spacing). Eighteen storms with precipitation greater than about 1.5 inches over the mountains in Idaho have been found and carefully documented at (including maps of integrated horizontal water vapor transport (IVT) and moisture convergence cross sections of moisture transport).
(4) Better understand moisture transport (atmospheric rivers, AR) throughout the Pacific:
To answer the question “how representative are Columbia Gorge AR extreme moisture flux cases?” we plan to place the extreme AR events in the context of past 150 years using 20th Century Reanalysis (20CR). Preliminary analysis on what better 20CR resolution has to be used for this purpose (20CR ver 2c at 2ox2o, or 20CR ver 3 at 0.5ox0.5o) are being conducted.
(5) Examine the influence of climate variability, especially tropical sea surface temperature (SST) on precipitation in this area:
We investigate the tropical influence on northwest U.S. precipitation. Our goal is to examine whether we can link variability in the precipitation field to the tropical climate (SST, subsurface ocean conditions) at different timescales, and identify the SST pattern(s) that are more conducive to precipitation variations in the northwestern United States (“sensitivity patterns”).


PSD-21: Develop and Prototype Experimental Regional Arctic Sea Ice Forecasting Capabilities

CIRES Lead: Amy Solomon

NOAA Lead: Janet Intrieri

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

A clearer separation of natural variations from anthropogenic influences in the climate system over the last 140 years will help explain climate variability better and improve the capacity for climate predictions.


This year, the NOAA-CIRES Sea Ice Forecasting team made daily quasi-operational 10-day forecasts of the 2016 Arctic Ocean freeze-up season (July-November) with an improved version of the Regional Arctic System Model (RASM-ESRL). We made the following model improvements for the 2016 freeze-up season:  updating the sea ice model, updating the land surface model, and replacing the mixed-layer ocean with a full dynamical ocean model to allow for the mixing of subsurface waters into the ocean mixed layer. We posted figures and animations of the daily forecasts on the NOAA/ESRL/PSD Experimental Sea Ice Forecast webpage ( in real time, to allow users such as the NWS Alaska Sea Ice Program and the Arctic Testbed to assess the forecasts for use in their operations.
In addition, we ran a suite of hindcasts with a variety of initialization fields to identify the impact of ocean initial conditions on 10-day forecasts, and we completed studies to assess the performance of forecasts made during the 2015 freeze-up period. Diagnostics from these studies are posted on the NOAA/ESRL/PSD Experimental Sea Ice Forecast webpage.
In the off-season, the our team completed process-oriented diagnostics of observations from the 2015 ONR SeaState campaign ( to be used for model verification. This work includes developing a novel approach to estimating sea ice thickness. We are using these observations to evaluate model simulations of ocean, sea ice, and atmospheric variability.
One objective we are completing in collaboration with the NOAA National Center for Environmental Prediction is determining to what extent a dynamical ocean model is required for subseasonal sea ice forecasts. Our preliminary results indicate that it is necessary to include the mixing of subsurface ocean water into the mixed layer for accurate forecasts, even on these short time scales. Our team is also working with the Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici (CMCC) in Bologna, Italy to develop a state-of-the-art Arctic Ocean analysis for model validation and to forecast initial ocean conditions. This ocean analysis has horizontal resolution similar to the forecasts (10km). However, comparisons with the SeaState measurements indicate that the mixing of subsurface Pacific Ocean water into the mixed layer is underestimated in the analysis. This finding led to an additional collaboration with CMCC, where our team is compiling all available Arctic Ocean measurements for 2015 to be assimilated into the ocean analysis. We will determine if using the assimilated ocean analysis will improve the skill of the subseasonal forecasts.
Our team will also focus on simulating the impact of lower-level atmospheric jets. These jets may be playing an important role in the evolution of the sea ice by forcing strong winds and fluxes across the ice edge. We are using observations from the SeaState campaign to assess the model skill in simulating these jets and the RASM-ESRL model to determine the impact of these jets on the sea ice evolution.

Monthly SST trends during 1976-2099 for LMEs around North America. Trends computed for each model from the CMIP5 (red) and CESM-LENS (blue) experiments are shown in box and whiskers format, where the end points indicate the maximum and minimum values, the box boundaries are the inter-quartile (25% and 75%) range and the median is the central line. Image: Alexander et al (2017)

PSD-25: Linking Weather, Climate and Environmental Tipping Points

CIRES Lead: James Scott

NOAA Lead: Michael Alexander

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives

Technology development such as described in this project is the basis for increased sophistication of measurement, which in turn supports improved modeling and prediction.


We published two papers in Climate Dynamics in March 2017 on sea surface temperature (SST) predictability in coastal regions, which included significant contributions from CIRES’ Gaelle Hervieux:
Hervieux, G., M. A. Alexander, C. A. Stock, M. G. Jacox, K. Pegion, E. Becker, F. Castruccio, and D. Tommasi (2017), More reliable coastal SST forecasts from the North American Multimodel Ensemble, Climate Dynamics, doi:10.1007/s00382-017-3652-7.
We analyzed the forecast skill of the North American Multimodel Ensemble (NMME) using three different metrics: anomaly correlation, root mean square error, and the Brier score. Our results indicate that current global climate forecast systems with relatively coarse oceanic and atmospheric resolution have skill in forecasting SST anomalies in many coastal Large Marine Ecosystems (LME). Forecast skill is highly dependent on the month being predicted, with certain months producing higher or lower seasonal predictability regardless of the initialization time and duration of the forecast. This forecast skill varied widely by region, with relatively high skill in the Pacific, especially in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, and in the vicinity of Newfoundland, but limited skill in regions along the U.S. East Coast.
Jacox, M. G., M. A. Alexander, C. A. Stock, and G. Hervieux (2017), On the skill of seasonal sea surface temperature forecasts in the California Current System and its connection to ENSO variability, Climate Dynamics, doi:10.1007/s00382-017-3608-y.
 Each of our coupled climate models in the NMME exhibits significant SST forecast skill in the California Current System (CCS). At short lead times (0-4 months), much of that skill can be attributed to persistence, while at longer leads skill above persistence emerges and in some cases extends for the full length of the forecast. Individual models, as well as the NMME multi-model mean, are particularly skillful for forecasts of February-April, regardless of initialization month. These late winter/spring forecasts also generate the greatest skill above persistence, as they coincide with times of low skill from persistence forecasts. In the case of Canadian Climate Model (CanCM4), we attribute the observed skill above persistence primarily to a predictable evolution of the CCS wind (and resultant upwelling) anomalies during moderate to strong El Niño Southern Ocsillation (ENSO) events.
Two other papers are still in preparation with significant contributions from CIRES scientists Antonietta Capotond, James Scott, and Matt Newman.


Scientific Education & Outreach


A student selects a dataset to view in SOS Explorer in an immersive, virtual reality setting. Photo: Theo Stein/NOAA

GSD-02: Science Education and Outreach, Science On a Sphere ®

CIRES Lead: Elizabeth Russell

NOAA Lead: John Schneider

NOAA Theme: NOAA Engagement Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project connects NOAA science to the public and to students and educators in the K-12 system.


We reached many significant milestones for Science On a Sphere (SOS), SOS Explorer (SOSx), and the NOAA Earth Information System (NEIS). A constant goal for our team is continual innovation, which we achieved through regular software releases that include improvements and new features. We released software updates for SOS in August 2016 and April 2017. These updates included an upgraded operating system, major improvements and new additions to the Visual Playlist Editor, better translation support, more robust automated alignment, and improvements to the kiosk and SOS Remote app.
We completed five SOS installations, bringing the number of worldwide installations to 145. In order to keep sites up to date and provide collaboration and networking opportunities, we held the SOS Users Collaborative Network Workshop at the Detroit Zoo in April 2017. At the workshop, which also featured SOSx, our team gave presentations on SOS software and best outreach and education practices.
We released new updates for SOSx in September 2016, February 2017, and May 2017. Our latest release introduced support for virtual reality with the Oculus Rift goggles, improved touch interaction, a fully featured TourBuilder, and new 3D models. In 2017, there were five public installations of SOSx. This is a major accomplishment as it expands the group’s outreach and exposes more people to work of NOAA and CIRES. Our free version of SOSx,  SOSx Lite, continues to be regularly used and downloaded, further expanding our outreach.
To provide exposure for SOS and SOSx, our team attended many professional conferences. In addition, SOSx was set up in the exhibit halls at the following meetings: the Association of Science and Technology Centers Conference, the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, and the National Space Symposium. In addition, SOSx was the primary exhibit at community outreach events at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. We created additional exposure through social media, including Facebook and a new Instagram account. We added presentations by CIRES educators using SOSx on Facebook Live Stream as a new outreach tool in 2017.
Our team overhauled several important NOAA Earth Information System (NEIS) features this year to update the technology and improve stability. We significantly improved support for multi-display, mixed resolutions, and touch input for a better user experience. On the web service side, we implemented continuous integration to add automated testing and deployment. We improved the NEIS presentation capabilities with the addition of TourBuilder, which allows users to create custom content for presentations and was used by several speakers at the AGU and AMS conferences. Our team also added product licensing and registration capabilities.


This map shows Arctic sea ice concentration anomalies in November 2016, based on data from the Sea Ice Index. Areas with unusually high concentration are blue, and areas with unusually low concentration are red. Figure credit:, Global sea ice in November: Black swans flock to both poles; Michon Scott, 14 Dec 2016, accessed 6 June 2017

NSIDC-01: Maintain and Enhance the Sea Ice Index as an Outreach Tool

CIRES Lead: Florence Fetterer

NOAA Lead: Eric Kihn

NOAA Theme: NOAA Engagement Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

The product of this project will attract and engage the interest of students and teachers as well as the general public.


 About 3,000 users download data each month from the Sea Ice Index, and significantly more view the data online. Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis (, NOAA’s Arctic Report Card (, and NOAA’s ( all rely on the Sea Ice Index to track ice. Ann Windnagel  highlighted the product, its users and uses, and its development goals in a presentation for the NOAA-CIRES Cooperative Agreement review board in September 2016. For the winter of 2016-2017, we saw extraordinarily low ice extents, as tracked by the Sea Ice Index and described in an article for
We published Version 2 of the Sea Ice Index in July 2016, with updated production code and other changes outlined in the documentation. After porting code to Python was completed in January 2017, we published Version 2.1. Prior to V2.1, we processed the Sea Ice Index with code written mainly in IDL with some Perl, Ruby, and C. Major improvements including a new color scheme for the daily and monthly images and graphs, reorganized FTP site, daily images and blue marble images now archived on FTP, minor adjustments to monthly computations, and interdecile and interquartile columns now supplied in the daily climatology file to complement the standard deviation value in that file.
In May 2017, we added the median sea ice extent line (the pink line) to the daily and monthly Sea Ice Index concentration images. Previously, this line only appeared on the sea ice extent images. The addition of the median extent line to the concentration images helps us inform users of how sea ice extent and concentration relate to one another, and continues our work to make the Sea Ice Index a user friendly, go-to source for sea ice information.
We also added the web service described in the NSIDC-04 report.


Space Weather Understanding & Prediction


Comparison of (top) 10–100 MeV and (middle) 30–100 MeV integral fluxes observed by STEREO and GOES 11 during the December 2006 solar proton events. The GOES 11 integral fluxes are calculated by using the NOAA SWPC method and by using the cross-calibrated effective energies validated by this paper. (bottom) The solar wind dynamic pressure (Pdyn) from the NASA OMNI data set. All data here are 1 h averages. Image: Rodriguez et al. 2017.

NCEI-06: Satellite Anomaly Information Support

CIRES Lead: Juan Rodriguez

NOAA Lead: William Denig

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

Data and research from this project will be used to provide space environmental data and tools to satellite operators and designers.


This year, we contributed to the Satellite Anomaly Information Support project primarily through the publication of two peer-reviewed publications.
In the first publication (Rodriguez et al., 2017), we led an international team in the validation of a previously-published cross-calibration of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) solar proton data. This validation effort took advantage of a serendipitous series of solar proton events that occurred days after the launch of the two NASA Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft, while they were orbiting around the Earth just prior to the lunar swing-by that sent them into their separate orbits around the Sun. With their fine energy resolution, the STEREO solar proton measurements could be used to validate the cross-calibrations performed against the earlier NASA Interplanetary Monitoring Platform (IMP)-8 measurements of comparably fine energy resolution. We found that the STEREO observations agreed well with the cross-calibrated GOES observations, thereby establishing the accuracy of the earlier cross-calibrations. An important consequence of this result is that current GOES integral fluxes used by the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in their solar radiation storm alerts are too high by up to a factor of 3 (at >100 MeV). This paper received an Editors’ Highlight from the journal in which it was published.
Our team contributed to an NCEI publication (Redmon et al., 2017) in which a parametric charge accumulation model was used to determine whether a series of anomalies on the NOAA Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites could be attributed to internal charging by >800 keV electron fluxes as originally proposed by NOAA. We found that internal charging now appears to be an unlikely root cause for this particular series of anomalies in the absence of an additional, enabling physical mechanism.

Rodriguez, J. V., I. Sandberg, R. A. Mewaldt, I. A. Daglis, and P. Jiggens (2017), Validation of the effect of cross-calibrated GOES solar proton effective energies on derived integral fluxes by comparison with STEREO observations, Space Weather, 15, 290–309, doi:10.1002/2016SW001533.
Redmon, R. J., J. V. Rodriguez. C. Gliniak, and W. F. Denig (2017), Internal charge estimates for satellites in low earth orbit and space environment attribution, IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, in press.


Example of the North American product on a five- by five-degree grid from 9/29/2016 at 08:43 UT created automatically and served on the Space Weather Prediction Center's public website. Image: NOAA

SWPC-01: Space Weather Information Technology and Data Systems

CIRES Lead: David Stone

NOAA Lead: Steven Hill

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project will determine the necessary research data systems and infrastructure required to successfully implement the empirical and physical scientific models of the space weather environment.


Our team successfully transitioned the University of Michigan’s Geospace Model into operations to serve NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) forecasters as well as power grid operators throughout the world. While the Geospace Model has diverse capabilities for specifying conditions in the near Earth space environment, the initial operational application is to specify regional geomagnetic activity at Earth’s surface (see image).
We transitioned the new North American total electron content (NATEC) U.S. and North America products to operations in order to serve single and dual frequency GPS applications. The model products are designed to specify vertical and slant TEC using a Kalman Filter data assimilation model in near real-time. These new changes include a larger assimilation grid and the addition of new GPS data in Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, and Mexico.
Our group assisted in the operational adaptation of a new real-time solar wind (RTSW) database schema that gives us the ability to easily switch between the aging Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite and the new DSCOVR satellite as sources for RTSW data. This work included retrofitting the remaining operational products which use RTSW data: Relativistic Electron Forecast Model (REFM), Aurora 30 minute forecast and Auroral 3-day forecast.
We deployed the Coupled Thermosphere Ionosphere Plasmasphere Electrodynamics (CTIPe) Model total electron content (TEC) forecast product to our experimental website. This model illustrates the height of integrated electron density from the CTIPe model and aids the forecasters in nowcasting effects on GPS systems, satellite drag and electric power transmission.
We finished the last Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5 to RHEL 6 transition, which was for the ACE processor and its web products. This highly complex migration allowed SWPC to continue to operate under the tightening security requirements of the National Weather Service (NWS).
Our team provided timely operational support for the following critical systems and maintained a high customer satisfaction:

  • SWPC’s public website
  • Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) processor
  • Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) ground data system
  • Geostationary Environmental Satellite (GOES) processor and preprocessor
  • WSA-Enlil model
  • D Region absorption predictions (D-RAP)
  • Air Force and Institute for Science and Engineering Simulation (ISES) message decoder (AIMED) processor
  • Microsoft SQL server space weather data store (SWDS)



High resolution image of a GONG magnetogram. These images are compiled into monthly plots of the solar magnetic field which are used as inputs to the WSA-Enlil model of the solar wind. This model predicts the timing and effects of solar storms.

SWPC-02: Enhancement of Prediction Capacity for Solar Disturbances in the Geospace Environment

CIRES Lead: Alysha Reinard

NOAA Lead: Vic Pizzo

NOAA Theme: Weather Ready Nation

Goals & Objectives

This project will advance preparedness for solar storms affecting communication, transportation, and other U.S. infrastructure.


We have transfered the existing Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) processing software to the Integrated Dissemination Program (IDP) and the software is working on their system. We are currently generating real-time magnetograms and H-alpha images. We have also been testing two methods for transfering data from the six GONG sites to the IDP. We have talked to the IDP about setting up an ftp webpage to provide the processed images and carrington maps to the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) and other customers, in particular the National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI), the Air Force and the National Solar Observatory (NSO). These tasks have been delayed on the IDP side due to a backlog of projects that they are working through—this delay has affected our schedule. However, we now have the permissions needed to do our testing and we are working through validating the data products and determining which method of data transfer best meets our needs. We have been validating the data products by comparing the outputs produced by the IDP with the outputs produced at NSO. We have brought Jeff Johnson, a CIRES software engineer, onto the project to begin evaluating the software to (1) provide detailed knowledge of the processing software within SWPC and (2) identify potential improvements to the software. He has been getting up to speed on the project and will be traveling to Tuscon in June to get a detailed walkthrough of the software with the experts at the NSO.


Comparison of observed variability of total electron content (TEC) in 2012 (upper panel), derived from ground-based GNSS receivers, with results from WAM-IPE for June-July solstice (lower left panel) and for September-October equinox conditions. The peak values of TEC either side of the magnetic equator are associated with the equatorial ionospheric anomaly. The figure shows the seasonal change in variability, which is well represented by the model. The upper right panel illustrates that solar, geomagnetic, and lower atmosphere forcing contribute roughly equally to the variability. Image: CIRES/NOAA

SWPC-03: Analysis of the Role of the Upper Atmosphere in Space Weather Phenomena

CIRES Lead: Timothy Fuller-Rowell

NOAA Lead: Rodney Viereck

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project will use models to determine causes for variation in space weather, with implications for infrastructure protection.


In an effort to model the space weather system from the Sun to Earth, NOAA is transitioning three separate physical model components. These include the WSA-Enlil solar wind propagation model, the Michigan Geospace model of the magnetosphere (see SWPC-01), and a coupled model of the whole atmosphere and the ionosphere-plasmasphere-electrodynamics (WAM-IPE). We have already transitioned the first two of these components to operations at NOAA, and we will test the third component in an operational real-time setting in September 2017.
WAM is a whole atmosphere extension of the National Weather Service (NWS) Global Forecast System (GFS) operational weather model, which extends the top boundary from 60 km to ~600 km. WAM can also be run with the NWS data assimilation scheme for WAM to follow real changes in tropospheric weather. The WAM model is coupled to a new Ionosphere-Plasmasphere-Electrodynamics (IPE) model, using the Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF), under the NOAA Environmental Modeling System. IPE is a time dependent, three-dimensional model of the ionosphere and plasmasphere. WAM provides us with the thermospheric properties of wind, composition, and temperature to the IPE, so it can respond to changes in terrestrial weather propagating upward and influencing the thermosphere. IPE will in turn provides time dependent, global, three-dimensional plasma densities for nine ion species, electron and ion temperatures, and both parallel and perpendicular velocities of the ionosphere and plasmasphere. IPE reproduces not only the climatology of global TEC observations, but the model also responds to changes in solar wind conditions during geomagnetic storms, and to terrestrial lower atmosphere changes, such as sudden stratospheric warmings (SSW). Our model follows the storm-time redistribution of plasma in the ionosphere and plasmasphere during an SSW, and the evolution of storm enhanced densities (SEDs) during a geomagnetic storm.
We have tested and validated the coupled WAM-IPE model with one-way coupling, where the winds, temperature, and composition from the neutral WAM code drive the IPE ionosphere. We have simulated several months with the one-way coupled model configuration to quantify the contribution of the three major sources of variability in the thermosphere-ionosphere system. These simulations demonstrated that during quiet-to-moderate geomagnetic activity, the three major sources—solar EUV radiation, geomagnetic, and lower atmosphere forcing—all contribute roughly equal amounts to the variability of thermosphere-ionosphere dynamics, electrodynamic, and plasma density.


North and south polar views of ground magnetic perturbations (dB) during a moderate Geomagnetic storm, as predicted by the University of Michigan Space Weather Modeling Framework (SWMF) model of the geospace environment. The model was transitioned at the Space Weather Prediction Center to full operations at the National Weather Service (NWS) on October 1st 2016. Image: NOAA SWPC

SWPC-04: Geospace Modeling Effort

CIRES Lead: George Millward

NOAA Lead: Howard Singer

NOAA Theme: Weather Ready Nation

Goals & Objectives

This project will use first-principles physics-based models to predict variations of space weather conditions in Earth’s near-space environment that affect critical infrastructure in space and on the ground.


Our aim has been to take the Space Weather Modeling Framework (SWMF) Geospace model, developed at the University of Michigan (UMICH), and transition it into full operations at the National Weather Service (NWS). The project has involved working closely with the model developers at UMICH to implement code and script changes needed for real-time, weather forecasting model usage. We have also worked with technical staff at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction Central Operation’s Production Management Branch (NCEP/NCO/PMB) on all aspects of the real-time system, including the ingestion of real-time satellite data used as model input and the dissemination of output products to the Space Weather Prediction Center and, for public consumption, to the web.
The 2016 NWS milestone for the project was to have an end-to-end system, fully operational, on the NWS supercomputers. We achieved this by the milestone date of October 1, 2016. Initial products included global maps of ground magnetic perturbations and estimations of global geomagetic indexes such as the planetary K value (Kp) and the Disturbance Storm Time Index (DST).
In May 2017 Millward was awarded a CIRES Science and Engineering Outstanding Performance Award “For Scientific creativity and resoursefulness in transitioning an academic-based geospace model into NOAA operations, serving space weather forecasters and power grid operators.”

Stratospheric Processes & Trends


Temperature anomalies at 10 hPa (shading, (K)) and the potential vorticity at 550 K (contours shown for 75, 100, and 125 PV units) during three types of polar vortex states: (left) an inactive (or strong) phase of the polar vortex (∼ 9 January 2009), (center) a vortex displacement following the 23 January 1987 event, and (right) a vortex split following the 24 January 2009 event. Image: Butler et al. (2016)

CSD-09: Stratospheric Radiative and Chemical Processes That Affect Climate

CIRES Lead: Sean Davis

NOAA Lead: Karen Rosenlof

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives

This project seeks to understand the processes in the stratosphere and upper troposphere that affect the radiative balance, transport (horizontal and vertical), and chemistry, especially the stratospheric ozone layer, in that region of the atmosphere.


One prominent theme of our project is improving past estimates of variability in stratospheric water vapor and ozone levels. 2016-2017 marked a major milestone for the Stratospheric Water Vapor and OzOne Satellite Homogenized (SWOOSH) data set, a CIRES/CSD-led data record of ozone and water vapor. In 2016, SWOOSH was officially released concurrently with the publication of the SWOOSH methodology paper (Davis et al., 2016). SWOOSH ozone data were used to quantify past variability in the width of the so-called tropical belt edge (Davis et al., 2017), and to estimate ozone depletion and recovery rates (Steinbrecht et al., 2017). In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, CIRES researchers used SWOOSH water vapor data, in conjunction with a model and other observations, to document and explain highly unusual water vapor and cloud ice conditions in the stratosphere caused by overshooting convection associated with the 2015-2016 El Niño (Avery et al., 2017).
Our group also led a number of studies aimed at improving understanding of radiative and dynamical processes that can impact chemistry and transport in the stratosphere. In 2017, we produced a new database of stratospheric polar vortex breakdowns (Butler et al., 2017), publicly archived the data (doi:10.7289/V5NS0RWP), and began examining the vortex evolution in the context of El Niño-Southern Oscillation. We also calculated improved estimates of Earth’s past and future energy budget for a suite of climate model simulations, and presented this material at international conferences (Larson et al., 2016; Larson et al., in preparation). We also used in situ measurements and model output to produce an improved estimate of the sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) stratospheric lifetime (Ray et al., 2017). This lifetime reduction, from 3200 years to 850 years, has major implications for the use of SF6 as an indicator of transport in the stratosphere as well as for the Global Warming Potential of SF6 for time horizons beyond ~500 years.
In addition to these studies, we made significant advances in understanding radiative and transport properties related to stratospheric aerosols. In one study using a state-of-the-art aerosol model (Community Aerosol and Radiation Model for Atmospheres or CARMA) and airborne in-situ measurements, we found that stratospheric aerosols contributed a surprisingly large 20 percent of radiative forcing since 1850 (Yu et al., 2016). In addition, we found that Asian summer monsoon can efficiently transport surface pollutants to the stratosphere, and contributes 15 percent of the global stratospheric aerosol budget (Yu et al., 2017).


Yu et al. (2017). Efficient transport of troposhperic aerosol into the stratosphere via the Asian summer monsoon anticyclone. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1701170114


Figure 1: CIRES scientist Patrick Cullis releases an ozone research balloon on the 50th anniversary of ozone research at Marshall Mesa south of Boulder. Photo: Theo Stein/NOAA

GMD-02: Analysis of the Causes of Ozone Depletion

CIRES Lead: Irina Petropavlovskikh

NOAA Lead: Russ Schnell

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives

This project addresses changes in the chemistry of the stratosphere that affect ozone depletion, which supports estimates of the types of adaptation and mitigation that will be necessary to stabilize ozone in the stratosphere.


We have finished reprocessing the vertical ozone profile measurements from nine sites for the ozonesonde data homogenization project. This includes over 7,000 individual flights and spans over 50 years for the Boulder, Colorado, (figure 1) and South Pole stations. Reprocessing of historical data has resulted in a robust data set that now includes individual and unique uncertainties for each sounding. This improves the usefulness and value of the ozonesonde data sets for use in trend analysis and comparison with satellite data sets. We have replaced the homogenized ozonesonde records with data files that are formatted identically and homogenized for instrument version and solution type and include uncertainty calculations for every ozone profile. We have re-submitted data to the Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change (NDACC) archive at: and updated on the NOAA data archive ftp site The updated uncertainties for the ozonesonde profiles in the entire NOAA record are important for assessment of ozone trends in stratosphere and troposphere.

NEUBrew (NOAA Environmental UV-ozone Brewer Network)
We continued to operate the six-station NEUBrew network during 2016. There were problems with Brewer 144 at the Bondville, Illinois, station, which reduced the amount of total column ozone and ozone profile data. The rest of the stations operated relatively trouble-free during the year. Both the total column ozone and ozone profiles are available at the NEUBrew website ( with one-day latency.
We shipped the Bondville Brewer # 96-144 to Boulder for repairs after many attempts to correct the problem in the field failed. Upon receipt of the Brewer we determined that there had been a mechanical failure in a coupling in the wavelength drive. We replaced the coupling and put the Brewer through a series of operational tests. We also performed an absolute spectral UV calibration, and returned the unit to Bondville after it successfully passed the operational tests. We compared the total column ozone measurements made by the Brewer to the OMI satellite values. Their difference was less than 1.2%, which is very good for this particular comparison.
To continue testing the Brewers with their new UVC-7 solar blocking filters and comparing them to instruments with the older nickel-sulfate (NiSO4) filters, we tested three Brewers for changes in their temperature dependence. The three ozone-triad Brewers at Table Mountain, Colorado, numbers 96-134, 96-139, and 96-141, were sequentially removed from Table Mountain and brought to NOAA’s David Skaggs Research Center. We tested each for temperature-dependent changes in both ozone and spectral UV responsivity. We placed the Brewers in an environmental chamber and aligned to an external quartz-tungsten-halogen light source. Our team made multiple measurements of spectral UV and total column ozone against the lamp over typical temperatures that the Brewer might experience in the field. The temperature range was from -10 to +40 degrees Centigrade. From these measurements we will calculate new temperature coefficients and compare them to the original values. Depending on the outcome, post processing of past data may be required.

The impact of a seasonal biases in the Dobson spectrophotometer total ozone data record is related to the use of static temperature for determining the ozone absorption cross sections in the UV Solar spectrum. A correction is therefore required to post-process Dobson data to account for daily changes in stratospheric temperature. To calculate the ozone-weighted (effective) temperatures we use: the hourly ozone profiles from the NASA GMI (Global Model Initiative) model and temperature profiles from the NASA MERRA reanalysis (Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications), which are available for years 1992-2014 for most of the NOAA Dobson stations locations. As the result of the applied corrections we observe some improvements in comparisons between Dobson and satellite data, as shown in figure 3, comparing the Dobson and the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) instrument on the JPSS-Suomi satellite over the South Pole station.
We also investigated the applicability of using global chemistry and transport models (CTMs) hourly output as compared to the monthly mean climatology to correct the Dobson historical record for stratospheric temperature variability, and its impacts on long-term trends in corrected Dobson records. We used ozonesonde and satellite profile data (i.e., Microwave Limb Sounder, MLS, Aura satellite) to validate the temporal variability in hourly outputs of the ozone and temperature vertical profiles derived from the GMI and MERRA databases. We found that observations strongly correlate with model output. Our team compared Dobson operational ozone cross-section data to other spectroscopic datasets to determine the proper selection of absorption cross-section data sets and its respective temperature sensitivity for Dobson total ozone data processing (i.e. Bass and Paur, 1984; Daumont et al., 1992; and Serdyuchenko et al., 2014).
Total Ozone Column (TCO) measurements made with Dobson spectrophotometers continued at the 14 locations operated by NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division (GMD) with the exception of our station in Perth, Australia, which malfunctioned in early July of 2016. Due to its outdated automation, remote location, and sparse funding we have been unable to repair it, and all plans for servicing it have been deferred until fiscal year 2018. NOAA GMD has continued to process and archive data from all other stations, and the data sets archived with the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre and Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change have been reprocessed using Windobson software. We will re-submit the reprocessed data from each of those data sets upon acceptance of a peer-reviewed paper describing the process.
NOAA is responsible for maintenance and calibration of the World Meteorological Organization Global Atmosphere Watch standard Dobson D083 instrument and provides calibration services to the Dobson regional calibration centers around the world. We shipped Dobson 083 to NOAA Mauna Loa Observatory in May of 2016 for its biannual calibration check. Although much of the data collected between May and July 2016 was of marginal quality due to various technical issues, subsequent checks made in Tenerife, Spain during an international intercomparisons campaign in September 2016 and comparisons to other instruments have verified that its calibration is within the tolerance. We made 11 Langley measurements over a 14-day period and the results were compared to other Dobson spectrophotometers and other spectrometers used to measure total ozone column (TCO). In addition, Dobson D083 participated in the WMO region V intercomparison in Broadmeadows Australia in February 2016. The Asian regional standard (D116), and the Australian regional standard (D105) were both calibrated during this event.

Surface ozone
The baseline levels of ozone in the boundary layer are often influenced by stratospheric intrusions. In Colorado, levels of the surface ozone are often increased for a short periods of time during spring and early summer, when the subtropical jets are often located near 40 degrees N and influence stratospheric intrusion processes in the Front Range. The location of three NOAA stations at different altitude levels in Colorado Front Range is designed to capture these events and understand the frequency and contribution to the baseline ozone levels (figure 2). Since these locations do not have measurements of other atmospheric composition that can be used to identify the origin of increased ozone air masses, we use regional chemistry models, (i.e. NCAR MOZART, NOAA RAQMS and WRF CHEM) to help analyze hourly ozone variability in continuous surface ozone measurements. Recent changes we have made to the location of spatial distribution of NOAA stations include moving surface ozone measurements from the Boulder Atmospheric Observatory near Erie, Colorado, to the NOAA Table Mountain facility, closer to the mountains.

Data archiving
In support of the previous Administration’s Big Earth Data Initiative (BEDI), we concentrated on preparing NOAA-acquired historical records (i.e. Dobson spectrophotometer total ozone, ozone-sonde profiles, and surface ozone time series for archival at the NOAA Center for Environmental Information, NCEI). The data sets incorporate records from 14 NOAA Dobson stations and 15 surface ozone stations set to be produced in a new data format known as netCDF. The netCDF is the Network Common Data File created by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and is “a set of software libraries and self-describing, machine-independent data formats that support the creation, access, and sharing of array-oriented scientific data.”

Flag line leading from the clean air sector to the Summit, Greenland station (known as the "Big House") and the outhouse. Summit is one of the ground sites slated for work reduction. Photo: Geoff Dutton/CIRES

GMD-05: Provide Data and Information Necessary to Understand Behavior of Ozone Depleting Substances

CIRES Lead: George Millward

NOAA Lead: Howard Singer

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives

This project provides both long-term global surface data sets and correlated vertical data sets that are used to quantify emissions, chemistry, and transport of ozone depleting gases. This information is used to monitor national and international emission policies, and is combined with models to improve our understanding of ozone, climate, and the feedback mechanisms that connect and drive both.


Our work and accomplishments are tied to our long-term global observations derived from the two surface networks and small aircraft profiles conducted at ~20 locations, mostly over North America. Highlights from this program include documenting the surprisingly large global increase in dichloromethane, an ozone-depleting gas not controlled by the Montreal Protocol; improving our understanding of atmospheric loss processes from an analysis of methyl chloroform data; and providing atmosphere-based constraints on 20th-century changes in global gross primary productivity (affecting CO2 concentrations). Our results from these programs feed into annual updates tracking global changes in climate warming from long-lived greenhouses gases (NOAA’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index or AGGI) and global changes in ozone-depleting gases (NOAA’s Ozone Depleting Gas Index or ODGI); the AGGI was updated in May 2017 and the ODGI will be updated in Summer of 2017. We also incorporated these data into a projection of greenhouse gas concentrations that will be used throughout the global modeling community to simulate climate change in the 21st Century). We now use the Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (GCMS) named Perseus for routing analysis of flasks obtained from all programs within the group. The increased throughput, higher precision and accuracy, and the additional measurements of new and more volatile compounds add to our flask program.
Regular low-altitude airborne flask measurements and periodic higher-altitude, mission-oriented measurements complement these surface observations. Our airborne program helps define the processes that connect the surface network measurements to the atmosphere as a whole. By themselves, each set of results addresses specific aspects of atmospheric chemistry (source and sinks), transport, feedback mechanisms, etc. However, because these data sets are referenced to a common in-house standards program, they represent a much more powerful tool when combined with the surface observations and are especially well suited to analysis by 3-D models. Our in-house standards and calibration capabilities allow us to test instruments and methods in ways that would be much more difficult if such capabilities did not exist. A major focus of our airborne programs this past year were the two NASA funded projects: Atmospheric Tomography Mission (ATom) and the Pacific Oxidants, Sulfur, Ice, Dehydration, and Convection Experiment (POSIDON). We have obtained data from the first and Second deployment of ATom and are in the process of being appropriately reviewed. With ATom we are using the NASA DC-8 to generate a chemistry-oriented extension of the global-scale tropospheric HIPPO observations from 2009 to 2011, with a focus on OH. With this extensive payload, we will be tracking the interplay between transport and chemistry in the free troposphere and will ultimately have full seasonal coverage. The data are already showing a temporal and spatial structure in the interhemispheric exchange process that controls much of the mass flux through the tropics where OH chemistry dominates.
Our work on stratospheric transport continued, resulting in the submission of a publication that substantially reduced the lifetime estimate for SF6, a potent greenhouse gas. We accomplished this through measurements of loss seen in the Arctic vortex. Our publication was also successful in quantitatively connecting 3-D mesospheric transport models with measured data. We have also started a study to quantify how circulation asymmetry between the northern and southern stratosphere produce measurable tropospheric gradients with correlated temporal and spatial structure. Our team’s work not only identifies a new potential measurement tool for stratospheric circulation studies but also modifies the interpretation of tropospheric gradients, particularly when used to determine tropospheric sources and sinks.


Differences between coincident water vapor measurements at 68 hPa by frost point hygrometers and the Aura Microwave Limb Sounder over (a) Boulder, Colorado and (b) Lauder, New Zealand. Dark and light blue markers for Boulder denote measurements by two different types of frost point hygrometer: the NOAA FPH and the CFH, respectively. Piecewise continuous linear regression fits to the two time series of differences indicate substantial negative trends starting in (a) mid-2009 and (b) early 2011. Image: CIRES and NOAA.

GMD-06: Monitor Water Vapor in the Upper Troposphere and Lower Stratosphere

CIRES Lead: Dale Hurst

NOAA Lead: Russell Schnell

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives

This project will make use of long-term UTLS water vapor measurements by balloon-borne frost point hygrometers to measure inter-annual changes and longer-term trends at three monitoring sites.


We made monthly balloon soundings with the NOAA frost point hygrometer (FPH) at Boulder, Colorado, Hilo, Hawaii, and Lauder, New Zealand, to measure water vapor in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS). These measurements extended the long-term records at these sites to 37, 7 and 13 years, respectively. Each sounding produced vertical profiles of water vapor, ozone, temperature, pressure and horizontal winds from the surface to an altitude of approximately 28 km. We used these data for the calibration and validation of satellite-based water vapor sensors and as critical checks of climate models.
We published a paper that exposes the recent divergences in stratospheric water vapor measurements by the Aura Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) and FPHs over five different sites. The Figure shows the downward trends in FPH-MLS differences at Boulder and Lauder, starting between mid-2009 and early 2011 and continuing through mid-2015. In many cases, these trends have caused FPH-MLS differences to now exceed the combined measurements accuracies of the two instruments. We attribute these divergences to MLS measurements drifting high (wet) in recent years, primarily because it is very unlikely that two different types of FPHs, independently manufactured and calibrated, would be drifting at the same rates at several sites (Hurst et al. 2016).
We also published a paper (Hall et al. 2016) that documents the history of the NOAA frost point hygrometer, including instrumental changes and upgrades made over the years. This paper also describes the current design of the FPH and quantitatively assesses its measurement uncertainties using laboratory-based tests and performance metrics from actual soundings.

Systems & Predictions Models Development


Mobile surface radiation (SURFRAD) site operated by NOAA's Global Monitoring Division Radiation Group located on the dry bed of northern Arizona’s Red Lake. Instrumentation is measuring the surface radiation budget.  2017 photo: Gary Hodges/CIRES and NOAA

GMD-01: Collect, Archive, and Analyze Global Surface Radiation Network Data

CIRES Lead: Gary Hodges

NOAA Lead: Joseph Michalsky

NOAA Theme: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Goals & Objectives

This project provides long term data for a network of sites on the amount of solar irradiation that reaches the Earth’s surface, including potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation. These measurements will indicate the mitigation strategies that might be necessary to maintain acceptable UV exposure and total irradiation exposure that is not excessively perturbed by human activity.


Since the last project update, we have completed the installation of new Multi-Filter Rotating Shadowband Radiometers (MFRSRs) and Multi-Filter Radiometers (MFRs) at all the fixed NOAA Global Monitoring Division Radiation Group surface radiation (SURFRAD) stations. These spectral instruments include a 1625 nm channel that will provide better accuracy in the retrieval of aerosol optical properties, along with improvements in the measurement of other atmospheric variables. With paired units (MFRSR and MFR) at each site, we can now calculate spectral surface albedo. Effort is now underway to work through the data corrections and calibrations necessary to produce high-quality albedo data sets.
Along with the new spectral instruments, all SURFRAD stations now have an improved instrument for measuring direct normal broadband solar radiation. The new instrument will improve the uncertainty of that measurement by 50 percent, which is particularly significant as direct normal shortwave is about 90 percent of the of the total shortwave reaching Earth’s surface. To further improve our broadband shortwave and longwave measurements, we have replaced AC fans with DC units for all the ventilated instruments. The new DC fans produce less heat and move more air, which improves an intrinsic problem in these types of measurements known as the nighttime offset error.
Motivated by, and in conjunction with the new instrumentation, we made substantial site infrastructure improvements in the prior year. The SURFRAD program is a long-term measurement network, and it is crucial it operates with very little downtime. The effort put into the infrastructure is foundational to the success of the program, so the materials used and careful planning is in consideration of decades into the future, and not just “years.”
About five years ago, our Global Monitoring Division Radiation Group assembled two mobile SURFRAD stations to be used in focused field campaigns in support of a wide variety of scientific research. In the past year, one station was operating in eastern Oregon in support of an experiment to improve wind forecasting in complex terrain. This short-term experiment has concluded and the station was removed in May. The other mobile station was removed from a location near Alamosa, Colorado. This station had provided valuable data to help improve short-term cloud forecasts in support of photovoltaic power generation. Now, it has been set up on a dry lake bed in northern Arizona to provide surface data for a validation study of the new GOES-16 satellite that was launched November 19, 2016.
With few exceptions, the mobile SURFRAD stations are identical in capability as the seven fixed sites. The data provided by these stations are core measurements for the science pursued, and in particular as input to the variety of computer models we employed in these studies.


This graphic shows the increasing density of weather data sources provided by MADIS to NOAA weather forecasters and the global weather forecasting community. The number of data sources has increased from about 20,000 to 64,000 during the development of this new data tool. Image: CIRES and NOAA

GSD-01: Innovative Weather Data Delivery Systems

CIRES Lead: Leon Benjamin

NOAA Lead: Gregory Pratt

NOAA Theme: NOAA Engagement Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project maintains and improves the advanced weather forecasting system and assures its accessibility for broad national use.


Our group’s Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System (MADIS) ingests data from NOAA data sources and non-NOAA providers, decodes the data, adds quality control, then encodes all of the observational data into a common format with uniform observational units and time stamps. It is also a conduct to transition observational projects from research to National Weather Service (NWS) operations. Our accomplishments in the last year include:

  • Transitioning the NWS's Hydrometeorological Automated Data System (HADS) system into a high security system from a medium system and incorporated it into MADIS. This included adding automated processing updates, verification, and back-out system to update sites changes. This process followed the security rules to allow HADS to add and change sites during critical weather conditions when all changes normally are frozen. It is during those critical weather times that HADS has the greatest need to add new observations for life and safety reasons.
  • Running Clarus quality control in MADIS at operations. It is being beta tested and is slated for official release in late 2017.
  • Transitioning into MADIS, in which much work was done. MADIS was officially assigned the gate keeper role in vetting aircraft data access. We are still in the process of moving the websites.
  • Quality controlling providers and sites that are constantly being added to MADIS. MADIS currently quality controls more than 3,000,000 observations per hour.
  • Transitioning the creation of the Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) NOAAport message. It is currently in beta testing and slated for operationalization in summer 2017.
  • Transitioning the aircraft Eddy Dissipation Rate observations into NWS operations.
  • Acting as the conduit to transition the GPS precipitable water (PWV) raw data from a private provider to NOAA and NWS forecasters.
The HRRR3 has improved convective forecasts from the operational version, HRRRv2. The figure shows the 13-h forecast for a storm system along a weak forced dryline from HRRRv3 (left panel) and HRRRv2 (right panel). Observed reflectivity (middle panel) shows the new HRRRv3 forecast has improved both storm structure and location. Image: RAP/HRRR development team in CIRES/NOAA

GSD-03: Improving Numerical Weather Prediction

CIRES Lead: Ming Hu

NOAA Lead: Georg Grell

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project focuses on improvements in numerical weather prediction by use of models through improved model design and implementation and optimal use of new and existing observations.


On August 23, 2016, we made the third version of Rapid Refresh (RAPv3) and the second version of the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRRv2) operational at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction of the National Weather Service.

Since then, we have made improvements for the next round of code updates in RAP and HRRR, including:

  • adaption of a new hybrid vertical coordinate option in the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model,
  • better representation of boundary-layer processes and sub-grid stratiform clouds in model physics,
  • further increase in the ensemble weight in the Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation (GSI) hybrid analysis,
  • addition of several new satellite radiance datasets,
  • reduction of latent heating strength for RAP radar reflectivity assimilation,
  • enhancements for Global Systems Division cloud analysis, and
  • surface observation assimilation near coast-lines.

The updated code had been well tested and showed improvement over RAPv3/HRRRv2 in prediction of temperature, relative humidity, winds aloft, and precipitation. The HRRR also showed substantial improvement in forecasts of conviction during the first six hours of the forecast.
In the summer and fall of 2016, we initiated experimental HRRR forecasts over Alaska, Hawaii, and Caribbean domains, with a 3-hour update frequency and 36-hour forecast length. Since early 2017, we have run a formal HRRR ensemble (HRRRE) in real time, providing probabilistic hazard guidance for heavy precipitation, intense snowfall, and severe thunderstorms. We evaluated HRRRE real-time ensemble forecasts during the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast (VORTEX-SE) field project, and the National Severe Storm Laboratory/ Storm Prediction Center (SPC) Spring Experiment.
Our work continued with development and refinement of a variational cloud analysis, a cloud assimilation procedure for camera data, and with Real-time Mesoscale Analysis and Rapidly Updating Analysis packages.
The team continued to improve reliability of probabilistic forecasts from the HRRR time-lagged ensemble (HRRR-TLE), notably through dynamic bias correction of precipitation forecasts. The HRRR-TLE product suite has been expanded to include aviation and fire weather concerns.
We have started working with the global Finite Volume Cubed-Sphere Dynamical Core (FV3) model in many aspects including physics package, software engineering, and more. Some of our team members are participating the sub-seasonal forecast project at the Climate Prediction Center of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. We have delivered a set of multi-year hindcast model outputs, and the real time experiments will start soon.
Our verification team has augmented the modeling development verification system to add new regions for Alaska and Hawaii, to add new models new projections and new forecast hours, to implement verification for HRRR ensembles, and to implement a new algorithm for radius-categorical verification.

2017 xJet Compute System Expansion. Photo: Eric Schnepp/NOAA

GSD-05: Development of High-Performance Computing Systems

CIRES Lead: Eric Schnepp

NOAA Lead: Forrest Hobbs

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project will allow environmental applications of advanced computing to assimilate and use new technical developments in the field of high performance computing.


Over the past year, our researchers have helped support NOAA’s High Performance Computing (HPC) team in the Global Systems Division (GSD). Work spanned several areas, including new system acquisition and planning, application optimization, software development, and user management and support.
In 2016, NOAA acquired an expansion to an existing HPC system to support the computational needs of Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project (HFIP) users. Our role in this acquisition included defining requirements, performing trade-off studies, system validation, and performance testing. The expansion increased xJet from 8,064 to 19,584 compute cores and represents a 23 percent increase in overall computational performance at GSD. In addition to the compute system expansion, NOAA acquired a 1-petabyte capacity expansion to one of three existing High Performance File Systems (HPFS), representing a 22 percent increase in overall HPFS storage at GSD.
Rocoto, a software system designed to help NOAA scientists improve the reliability of their computational experiments on NOAA’s HPC systems, saw important bug fixes and performance enhancements. An increasing number of NOAA’s GSD and HFIP scientists rely on Rocoto to help them construct complex job workflows that reliably complete. Also, other NOAA labs, including NCEP’s Environmental Modeling Center, have adopted Rocoto as a viable alternative to ecFlow for critical projects.
One of the more important experiments that we support on the HPC systems at GSD is the annual real-time hurricane season experiments for HFIP. The goal of this experiment is to demonstrate their ability to deliver improved hurricane forecasts. Our responsibility is to develop the tools and techniques for HFIP scientists to use so that their experiments can run reliably and on-time. Rocoto is a big part of this process. Well before the peak of hurricane season, we implemented a complex system based on reservations that guaranteed system resources to HFIP projects when needed. We closely monitored system utilization and reservation usage during the real-time hurricane season. During periods of low storm activity, we provided tools to HFIP projects to allow them to release unneeded resources, thereby letting the rest of the research and development community to execute as resources became available.

Example of a Terminal Radar Approach Control Gate Forecast of the impact of thunderstorms on arrival and departure route sectors for Atlanta (left image: courtesy of the Aviation Weather Center) and the corresponding TRACON Gate Forecast Verification Tool (right image: NOAA/CIRES).

GSD-06: Verification Techniques for Evaluation of Aviation Weather Forecasts

CIRES Lead: Matthew Wandishin

NOAA Lead: Jennifer Mahoney

NOAA Theme: Weather Ready Nation

Goals & Objectives

This project contributes to the prediction of specific weather related threats to aviation, thus potentially enhancing the safety of aviation.


Our evaluation of the global Graphical Turbulence Guidance (GTG-G) was delayed due to miscommunication between the product developer and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), who will be incorporating the algorithm into their global model post-processing suite. We held several coordination meetings with the United Kingdom Met Office (UKMO), NCEP, and the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) to establish an agreed upon plan for evaluating the new product in the context of the World Area Forecast System (WAFS) turbulence forecasts. We also began implementation of the GTG-G verification plan.
We completed the assessment of the Icing Product Alaska-Forecast (IPA-F) and reported it to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit. Overall IPA-F provides an improved forecast over the current operational product, but some issues with IPA-F were noted and are being addressed by the product developers.
We nearly completed an assessment of the follow-on Icing Product Alaska-Diagnostic (IPA-D) nowcast during the reporting period, with the final reporting to be given in June. We found IPA-D provided little value above that which is available from IPA-F.
Our team completed an evaluation of the automated version of the Collaborative Convective Forecast Product (CCFP); the forecasts were found to perform better during the 2016 convective season than it did in the previous year, likely due to upgrades in the underlying models. Despite this improvement, the performance was still below the level that the human forecasters used to achieve (there were no human CCFP forecasts in 2015 and 2016).
We completed the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) Facilities Gate Forecast Verification Tool expansion to additional airports. A planned further expansion to include human forecaster adjustments to the automated forecast was delayed because of a delay in the implementation at AWC of the human component of the forecast and a lack of forecaster involvement.
The verification tool for wind-shift forecasts at airports is still in development. We held many consultations with National Weather Service management to establish agreed upon definitions of significant wind-shift events.
Our team conducted extensive research into suitable observations against which to verify the Ensemble Prediction of Oceanic Convective Hazards (EPOCH) forecast product. There is no single product that provides a reliable observation of convection at a global scale. As a result, we will need to combine several observation sets to assess the performance of the EPOCH forecasts.
Similar to with the GTG-G product, meetings were held with NCEP, the UKMO, and AWC to establish a verification plan for the EPOCH product in the context of the WAFS thunderstorm forecast product.
We are incorporating three web-based verification tools developed by the Forecast Impact and Quality Assessment Section—the Central Weather Service Unit Briefing and Verification Tool, the TRACON Gate Forecast Verification Tool, and the Event-based Verification and Evaluation of NWS gridded products Tool—into a common system knows as the Verification Services for Aviation Forecast Evaluation (VSAFE). VSAFE is planned for transition to the NWS to support verification of aviation forecasts supporting traffic flow management.
Our group completed core research projects on an object-oriented approach to verifying forecasts of convective initiation and on the application of a cluster-based presentation of forecast scenarios to a convective-allowing ensemble, as well as an investigation into observation platforms that can serve as truth sets for global convection.

GSD-07: Numerical Prediction Developmental Testbed Center

CIRES Lead: Ligia Bernardet

NOAA Lead: Stan Benjamin

NOAA Theme: Weather Ready Nation

Goals & Objectives

This project is directed toward maintenance and improvement of the hurricane prediction system and is supportive of government agencies and public information systems that provide hurricane warning.


CIRES and collaborators continued to act as a bridge between research and NOAA operations in the field of numerical weather prediction. Our activities focused on two fronts: O2R (transition of operational capabilities to the research community) and R2O (test, evaluation, and transition of new research and developments to operations).

Our accomplishments included:

  • Public release and support of the HWRF (Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting) model and GSI (Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation) data assimilation system. This involved testing code for public releases, creating and updating documentation and instructional materials, conducting tutorials, and answering questions from users.
  • Support to the developers of the HWRF and GSI codes, by chairing developers' committees, conducting code management, and providing assistance in adding new capabilities to the software.
  • Advancement of the CCPP (Common Community Physics Package), a library of physical parameterizations for use in NWP systems, by collecting requirements, formulating a design, and creating a beta version which includes an IPD (Interoperable Physics Driver) that can be used to connect the physics to a variety of models.
  • Establishment of a hierarchical "test harness" for assessment of global models. This includes capability to run the GFS (Global Forecast System) in cycled data assimilation mode and produce diagnostics (water and energy budget, tropical cyclogenesis etc.) to inform model development.
  • Development of a draft protocol for innovations in physical parameterizations to be transitioned from the research community to the NOAA operational global forecast system.
  • Assessment of new capabilities for R2O, including

    • Regional 4D-EnVar (four-dimensional ensemble-variational data assimilation).
    • Alternate cumulus parameterization for HWRF and GFS.
    • Updates to the HWRF partial cloud parameterization and cloud overlap algorithm.
  • Publishing a newsletter to inform the community of the activities undertaken by DTC.


Bernardet, L., L. Carson, and V. Tallapragada, 2016. The design of a modern information technology infrastructure to facilitate research to operations transition for NCEP’s modeling suites. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., submitted.
Shao, H., J. Derber, X.-Y. Huang, M. Hu, K. Newman, D. Stark, M. Lueken, C. Zhou, L. Nance, Y.-H. Kuo, B. Brown, 2015: Bridging Research to Operations Transitions: Status and Plans of Community GSI. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. DOI:
Tallapragada, V., L. Bernardet, M. K. Biswas, I. Ginis, Y. Kwon, Q. Liu, T. Marchok, D. Sheinin, B. Thomas, M. Tong, S. Trahan, W. Wang, R. Yablonsky, X. Zhang, 2016: Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) Model: 2015 Scientific Documentation. NCAR Technical Note NCAR/522+STR, 116 pp. Available at


GSD-09: Improve the AWIPS Weather Information System

CIRES Lead: Paul Schultz

NOAA Lead: Mike Kraus

NOAA Theme: NOAA Engagement Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project focuses on developing forecast tools for NWS forecasters using the AWIPS-2 system. It is directed at the computer user interface issues presented by advancements in (primarily weather) data technology, and by evolving practices in weather forecasting operations.

The Ensemble Tool in the Advanced Weather Information Processing System


We made substantial improvement to the usability, performance, and stability of the Matrix Navigator, an AWIPS tool that allows forecasters to make quick comparisons between alternative forecast scenarios. We also refactored the entire Ensemble Tool for readability, and to ensure the contractor, Raytheon, could efficiently maintain it. We added two new features. The first makes images from contour products, which is expected to improve the utility of the spaghetti tool as the basis for user-custom decision support graphics. The second allows forecasters to efficiently mine the ensemble solution space for details not seen in default contour values; it allows the user to choose a specific contour, then change and redraw it one small increment at a time. These tasks were given highest priority by National Weather Service (NWS) forecasters who attended NOAA’s Forecaster Decision Support Environment workshop in September 2016, in Boulder, Colorado. A progress report was given to the annual convention of the American Meteorological Society in Seattle, Washington.


GSD-11: Improve RAP/HRRR for Wind and Solar Forecasts

CIRES Lead: Joe Olson

NOAA Lead: Melinda Marquis

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

This project focuses on improving the skill of Rapid Refresh and High-Resoluation Rapid Refresh forecasts of low-level winds and downward shortwave radiation, which are both useful for the electric power system.


We developed the boundary layer scheme used in the Rapid Refresh (RAP) and the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) including improvements to the local mixing in stable conditions and the addition of non-local mixing for unstable conditions. We accomplished the former by redesigning the formulation of the mixing length scales to better control the magnitude throughout a wide range of atmospheric conditions. And we accomplished the latter by the addition of a new mass-flux scheme. Both components demonstrated improvement over the previous version of the RAP and HRRR and were included in the code transfer to the National Center for Environmental Prediction for the next generation operational versions of the two models.
Another major accomplishment of our team was the addition of a hybrid vertical coordinate (HVC) to the RAP and HRRR. Our purpose was to reduce artificial numerical mixing caused by the traditional terrain-following vertical coordinate. The HVC code, originally written by colleagues at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), was integrated into the RAP/HRRR code repository. Further code required the data assimilation, boundary condition updating, and post-processing software. We tested the code in both the RAP and HRRR for a set of retrospective simulation sampling all four seasons. Our results show that the majority of the improvement is in the upper-tropospheric temperature and relative humidity, with little or no impact in over variables or at other levels of the atmosphere. Although we found no improvement for low-level winds, the improvements to the upper-level humidity can translate into improved cloud forecasts over complex terrain, resulting in small positive improvements in forecasts of downward shortwave radiation.
Stochastic physics is a promising approach to help improve the spread and skill of ensemble forecast systems, providing forecasters with probabilistic information along with traditional deterministic forecasts. The implementation of stochastic parameter perturbations (SPP) into the RAP/HRRR physics, geared specifically for improving the spread of low-level winds and downward shortwave radiation, may provide valuable probabilistic information for the renewable energy industry. We made code changes in MYNN PBL (Mellor-Yamada-Nakanishi-Niino level 2.5 planetary boundary layer), surface layer scheme and RUC LSM (Rapid Update Cycle land surface model) to include SPP. Our team performed ensemble tests to determine optimal spatial and temporal decorrelation length scales. Our results from HRRR-based ensemble shows that SPP helps to improve the ensemble spread. With the addition of other traditional stochastic approaches, it is likely that the HRRR ensemble will be able to attain similar spread as other multi-physics ensembles but maintain better skill. We have outlined future work to achieve this goal.


Project NCEI-12 closed in 2016 due to NOAA reorganization.


Sea surface salinity computed in two coupled atmosphere-ocean configurations of NASA ModelE, developed at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The top image shows the original ModelE code. The middle image shows the code after it was modularized and components were fitted with standard interfaces based on the Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF). This standardization will enable modelers working with ModelE to exchange components more easily with other models at NASA and in the broader community. The bottom image shows the difference in values between the two configurations. Image: Carlos Cruz/NASA Goddard

GSD-12: NOAA Environmental Software Infrastructure and Interoperability Project

CIRES Lead: Cecelia DeLuca

NOAA Lead: Dave Zezula

NOAA Theme: Science and Technology Enterprise

Goals & Objectives

The project advances understanding and improves predictions of the Earth system by delivering infrastructure software that enables new scientific discoveries, fosters inter-agency collaborations, and promotes resource efficiency.


Our Environmental Software Infrastructure and Interoperability (NESII) project continued to develop and deploy community model infrastructure software, working toward the goal of coordinating modeling activities across agencies.
During the last year, we made improvements in NESII products including the Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF) software for building and coupling models and the National Unified Operational Prediction Capability (NUOPC) Layer, an extension to ESMF that increases the interoperability of model components across centers. Our team worked closely with teams at NOAA, NASA, Navy, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), other federal centers, and universities to implement and update ESMF and NUOPC Layer software interfaces in their coupled modeling systems.
One of our goals for this year was to expand the collection of model components that conform to ESMF and NUOPC Layer interfaces, called the Earth System Prediction Suite (ESPS). An important addition to the ESPS this year was a new atmospheric model called the Finite Volume 3 Global Forecast System (FV3GFS). This atmospheric model will be included in numerous NOAA applications (for example, weather forecast, hurricane, seasonal) that are connected by a new unified modeling system for National Weather Service operations. The unified modeling system, or NEMS (NOAA Environmental Modeling System) is based on ESMF and NUOPC Layer coupling tools. Our first release of the FV3GFS under NEMS was in May 2017.
We collaborated with the NOAA Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) and other partners to deliver milestones for other applications running under NEMS. Our deliveries included improvements to a coupled atmosphere-ocean-ice seasonal prediction system, a coupled atmosphere-ionosphere system, a coupled atmosphere-ocean hurricane forecast system with moving nests, and a coupled atmosphere-wave system. These new milestones reflect additional feedbacks and greater physical fidelity.
Other milestones we achieved included a coupled atmosphere-ocean code based on NASA’s ModelE using the NUOPC Layer infrastructure, and a coupled regional atmosphere-land-ocean-hydrology code for the Navy. We collaborated with the Navy, NCAR, and university partners to complete a 20-year run of the Community Earth System Model (CESM) coupled to a high-resolution ocean. For a new project with CESM, EMC, and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), we will develop a multi-scale community NUOPC Layer-based coupler that these centers can share.
In addition to developing modeling infrastructure and the ESPS, we also continued to support data infrastructure for the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 6 (CMIP6), an international effort that is the basis for climate assessments like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The CoG collaboration environment, developed by NESII, has become the primary U.S. interface for downloading data from the preceding experiment, CMIP5, and will be used for CMIP6. CoG is part of a federated data distribution environment managed by the Earth System Grid Federation, an international consortium. The main CoG installation is at CU Boulder, but there are separate CoG installations in France, Sweden, Germany, the U.K, U.S. federal labs, and other countries. Our team also delivered an extensive model metadata questionnaire for collecting information about the CMIP6 models.



CIRES scientists and faculty published at least 805 peer-reviewed papers during calendar year 2016. Below, we tabulate publications by first author affiliation, per NOAA request. CIRES scientists and faculty published additional non-refereed publications in 2016, many of them listed in the pages that follow. These citations represent a subset of all CIRES publications; our tracking process misses some, although improved tracking methods may be responsible for some increases over recent years. Moreover, publication counts are only one measure of CIRES’ impact. Additional information on how CIRES research is pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge is summarized in “CIRES: Science in Service to Society”  and detailed throughout this report.

For an accessible version of this chart, and a full listing of publications, click here.

Active NOAA Awards

For an accessible PDF of this chart, click here.

Personnel Demographics

For an accessible PDF of these charts, click here.