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The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) conducts collaborative research in atmospheric and Earth system science, encompassing meteorology, climate science, atmospheric chemistry, solar-terrestrial interactions, environmental and societal impacts, and more. A nongovernmental institute, the center is based in Boulder, Coloradomarker, USAmarker at the Mesa Laboratorymarker.

NCAR (pronounced "EN-car") is managed by the nonprofit University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Research, services, and facilities

NCAR provides a broad array of tools and technologies to the scientific community for studying Earth’s atmosphere, including

* Specialized instruments to measure atmospheric processes
* Research aircraft
* High-performance computing and cyberinfrastructure, including supercomputers
* Mauna Loa Solar Observatorymarker
* Cooperative field campaigns
* Atmospheric models of weather, chemical, solar, and climate processes, including cooperatively developed models such as:
** Community Climate System Model (CCSM)
** Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF)
** Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM)
* Technology transfer to support societal needs
* Data sets, data services, and other resources

The center is staffed by scientists, engineers, technicians, and support personnel who develop and extend these capabilities. Key research areas include

* Climate (Earth’s past, present, and future climate; the greenhouse effect, global warming, and climate change; El Niño, La Niña, and other large-scale atmospheric patterns; drought, wildfires)

* Meteorology/Weather (short-term forecasts; weather forecasting and predictability; weather's effect on climate; hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe storms; physical processes)

* Environmental and societal impacts (impacts of climate change on the natural and managed environment; interactions of weather, climate, and society; weather hazard systems for aviation and ground transportation; national security)

* Pollution and air chemistry (air pollution on local, regional, and global scales; air chemistry and climate; chemical evolution and transport in the atmosphere)

* the Sun and space weather (the structure of the Sun, from its interior to sunspots to the solar corona; the solar cycle; the Sun’s effect on Earth’s weather and climate; space weather)

* Other components of the Earth system (the effects on weather and climate of interactions with: the oceans and other components of Earth's water cycle, including sea ice, glaciers, and the rest of the cryosphere; forests, agriculture, urbanization and other types of land use)

NCAR is organized into four laboratories and two programs:

* Computational & Information Systems Laboratory (CISL)
* Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL)
* Earth & Sun Systems Laboratory (ESSL)
* Research Applications Laboratory (RAL)

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

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

Participation in 2007 Nobel Peace Prize

Many NCAR scientists participate in national and international collaborations, projects, assessments, and panels. Notable among these is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Scores of NCAR researchers and technical staff have contributed time and expertise to the IPCC assessments of climate change since they began in 1990, and all of them shared with colleagues around the world in the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and the IPCC.


NCAR's flagship building is the Mesa Labmarker, designed by architect I.M. Pei in the 1960s. This Boulder landmark sits atop 600-foot high Walter Orr Roberts mesa above the city, against the Flatirons formation of the Rocky Mountains.

Other facilities include the Foothills Lab and Center Green campus in north Boulder and the Research Aviation Facility at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in nearby Broomfield, Coloradomarker.

Visiting NCAR

Public tours

The Mesa Lab's Visitor Centermarker is free and open to the public daily. Guided tours and self-guided audio tours include one of the first supercomputers built by Seymour Cray as well as NCAR's modern supercomputer fleet, a wealth of hands-on educational exhibits demonstrating weather phenomena and Earth's changing climate, and a scenic outdoor weather trail.

Scientific visitors

Frequent opportunities to visit NCAR facilities for workshops, colloquia, and collaboration strengthen NCAR's ties with colleagues in academia, government labs, and the private sector. Many NCAR staff also visit colleagues at universities and labs and serve as adjunct or visiting faculty.

Funding and management

NCAR is one of NSF's Federally Funded Research and Development Centers and approximately 95% of its funding comes from the federal government. However, NCAR is not a federal agency and its employees are not part of the federal personnel system.

NCAR employs about 930 staff. Its annual expenditures in fiscal year 2008 were $181 million. Eric Barron has been director of NCAR since August 2008.

UCAR is a consortium of more than 70 North American university members and many national and international affiliates who benefit by collaborating on research problems and using facilities that would be difficult to pursue as individual institutions.


  1. NCAR & UCAR at a Glance
  2. [1]
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  4. NCAR news release

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