NOAA STRATEGIC GOAL: Supporting NOAA's MissionProvide critical support for NOAA's mission.
Ronald H. Brown
The NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown deployed on a research cruise in the Pacific Ocean. The large sphere on the top mast is the antenna dome for the scanning C-band Doppler radar.
Boulder Atmsopheric Observatory
300-m (1000-ft) Boulder Atmospheric Observatory tower looking south.
ESRL Observing Systems Facilities
The Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) maintains several observing facilities to provide support for research conducted throughout NOAA. These include a land-based 300-m tower as a test bed for the development of remote sensors and remote sensing techniques, a suite of remote sensors on the NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown and a pool of rawinsonde receiving systems for balloon-borne atmospheric profiling of wind, temperature, and humidity. These systems are made available by ESRL to support research projects throughout NOAA.
NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown meteorological systems
The NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown is NOAA's premier atmospheric and oceanographic research vessel. The Ronald H. Brown has a special suite of observing systems that complement standard oceanographic instrumentation such as echo sounders, sonars, current profilers, and expendable bathythermographs. The special ESRL-provided observing systems include:
- A scanning Doppler radar
- A satellite receiver for polar orbiting satellite data
- An atmospheric wind profiler
The Doppler radar and the satellite receiver are commercial systems purchased shortly after the ship was commissioned and installed in 1999. The wind profiler was designed and constructed at ESRL and installed in 2000. The Doppler radar is a state-of-the-art weather radar similar to those operated around the US at airports. The principal application is observation of precipitating weather systems such as hurricanes, thunderstorms, and moist weather fronts. The radar has a range of about 150 miles; it is stabilized to remove the ship's pitch and role. The Doppler designation means that it can sense air motions, so the wind velocities can be estimated. While the Doppler radar scans a volume of space, the wind profiler stares overhead and continuously retrieves the wind speed as a function of height from 300 to 3000 m (1000 to 10,000 ft). This combination of instruments makes the Ronald H. Brown an oceangoing weather observing platform of great power.
The Ronald H. Brown's special observing systems have been used in studies of the Indian and North American monsoon, El Niño in the tropical Pacific, air pollution in New England, and dust transport from Asia and North Africa. Future projects include hurricane genesis in the Atlantic, stratus clouds over the ocean, and air pollution in the Houston area.
Boulder Atmospheric Observatory
Completed in 1977, the Boulder Atmospheric Observatory is a unique research facility for studying the planetary boundary layer and for testing and calibrating atmospheric sensors. The centerpiece of the facility is a 300-m tower instrumented at five levels with temperature and wind sensors, a variety of remote sensing systems, and a real-time processing and display capability that greatly reduces analysis time for scientists. The BAO has been the host of several large national and international experiments and numerous smaller ones, including several cutting edge air pollution studies. In one application, ESRL scientists began to make measurements from the top the Boulder Atmospheric Observatory in 1985 in an effort to extend NOAA's radiation observational network and to take advantage of the unique opportunity to view a relatively large land-surface area and make extended quantitative observations of solar and infrared radiation. The size of the area sampled from the top of the Boulder Atmospheric Observatory approaches that sampled by satellites or simulated in numerical weather and climate models. The complexity of the land-surface surrounding the Boulder Atmospheric Observatory make it a challenge to interpret in satellite data or to properly model numerically -- similar to a significant portion of the Earth's land surface. This ability to help validate satellite observations and climate and weather forecast models makes Boulder Atmospheric Observatory data particularly valuable.
Rawinsonde atmospheric profiling systems
ESRL maintains several Vaisala balloon sounding systems. Each of these portable systems consists of a ground receiving station with a Global Positioning System wind finding capability, a ground check station, and a data collection computer. Detailed temperature, humidity, and wind profiles can be obtained from the surface up into the stratosphere. These systems have been used both on land and aboard ships in several major studies, including the coastal weather experiments PACJET and CALJET, where they led to improved forecasts of extreme rainfall events.