Observational science is central to NCAR, and helping to define and conduct field campaigns and observational experiments is one of the most important services NCAR provides to the broader scientific community. To fulfill this imperative, NCAR must maintain a robust and reliable set of deployable observing facilities (aircraft and ground-based) and seek opportunities to develop and upgrade observational technology and instruments. NCAR also maintains and operates stationary observing facilities such as those at Mauna Loa; participates in the definition, design, and development of satellite-based and balloon-based instrumentation; and provides access to extensive archives of observational data sets. All of these activities are dependent on NCAR's proven ability to attract and retain an experienced cadre of engineers, technicians, scientists, and logistics experts who provide world-class support for planning, development, and implementation. Over the next three to five years, NCAR will
- Ensure that the atmospheric observing facilities required for anticipated community research remain in ready-to-deploy status and operate these systems in support of those research programs
- Complete development and begin operation of all initial instruments on the NSF/NCAR G-V high-altitude research aircraft
- Distribute and manage observational data sets from new and archived experiments and meet the challenge posed by the increasing size and complexity of observational data sets by developing suitable systems and procedures for archival and access
- Enhance the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory through upgrade of existing instruments and addition of new instruments
- Develop life-cycle plans for major facilities and instruments, considering anticipated changes in technology and observational needs, in order to formulate a long-range strategy for replacement and upgrades
- Develop specific plans for a future airborne weather radar system (to replace or upgrade the ELDORA system) and for ground-based profiling of wind, moisture, and temperature (to replace, complement, or upgrade the Integrated Sounding System)
- Advance ground-based radar systems, with a near term focus on collaborating with CSU/CHILL to develop and deploy an integrated and networked multi-facility Doppler weather radar system
- Conduct a small set of exploratory development projects (often in partnership with others) selected for their potential to provide new observational capabilities
- Advance observational capabilities for atmospheric chemistry research, including developing and deploying time-of-flight mass spectrometry systems for analyzing organic trace gases and aerosols
If the observing systems that NCAR operates for the community are to remain at the state of the art, NCAR must also pursue long-term development projects with time scales of a decade or more. One such project is the Coronal Solar Magnetism Observatory (COSMO), which will provide unprecedented insights into coronal structure, heating, and dynamics, as well as the activity responsible for space weather, through synoptic observations of coronal magnetic fields. The centerpiece of COSMO will be a meter-class coronagraph with instruments to measure the coronal magnetic field using the polarization of forbidden infrared emission lines. Supporting instruments will provide context, and the suite will eventually replace the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory, operated by NCAR for over 40 years.
Two other prominent efforts in the early planning stages are the next-generation airborne radar that will replace the ELDORA system and the next-generation system for wind profiling (see planning efforts described in the actions above). NCAR also has developed proposals for a remote-sensing suite of airborne instruments (the Community Airborne Platform Remote-Sensing Interdisciplinary Suite, or CAPRIS) and for a "virtual operations center" (VOC). CAPRIS will include development of several lidars and short-wavelength radar for airborne use, and the VOC will integrate advanced networking and communications capabilities with analysis and visualization tools for remote access and interaction with researchers and students during field experiments. Finally, we see many opportunities for continued participation in the development of space-borne instrumentation for observations of the Sun and Earth system.
These major efforts, along with continued development of smaller component instruments for community use, represent the long-term vision for observational capabilities.