ESRL Global Systems Division

FSL Helps Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the DOC Boulder Laboratories

The Forecast Systems Laboratory has been involved in many of the activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Department of Commerce Boulder Laboratories. Half of NOAA Research's 12 laboratories are located in Boulder, Colorado, along with three Data Centers, one Joint Institute, and the Denver National Weather Service Forecast Office. Boulder is also home to part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (previously the Bureau of Standards) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The community events included public lectures and demonstrations, a science festival, and a rededication ceremony. For historical purposes, a special committee compiled a volume of landmark papers published since the dedication of the DOC Boulder Laboratories on September 14, 1954.

A lecture series on "Research, Invention, Discovery: Now and Then" was cosponsored by the City of Boulder. FSL director Dr. Sandy MacDonald presented a talk on "Making Better Predictions for Tomorrow and 100 Years from Now." At a recent Science Festival, meteorologists Tom LeFebvre and Dr. Joe Golden gave presentations on "Weather Forecasting of the Future" and "Tornadoes and Waterspouts," respectively. The public could also see demonstrations of Science On a Sphere™, NOAA's new technology for educating the public on the dynamic forces of nature that impact our oceans, atmosphere, and land.

The important research at NOAA is documented through thousands of published papers in the open literature. The 50 best papers to represent the most significant accomplishments over the 50-year evolution of the Boulder Laboratories were selected by the Historical Publications Committee. FSL representation included research papers on microbursts, flash floods, wind profilers, and numerical weather prediction. Two papers by Dr. Fernando Caracena were chosen as milestones in atmospheric science. One paper, published in 1977, confirmed the hypothesis that downbursts could threaten aviation; it definitively showed that not only could cumulus convection result in downdraft-induced damaging winds but it could also bring down a modern jetliner. This paper paved the way for many followup studies and field projects, and the construction of Terminal Doppler Weather Radars at major airports and implementation of new pilot training programs. Another paper published by Dr. Caracena in 1979 on his study of the Big Thompson flash flood was chosen because this research awakened the meteorological community to the importance of forecasting flash floods and opened the door to new programs and research in the field. A paper written by Dr. Richard Strauch, Douglas van de Kamp, et al. in 1984 described work that led to the deployment of the NOAA Wind Profiler Network, which continues to provide real-time wind data. Drs. Stan Benjamin and Tom Schlatter, Tracy L. Smith, et al. published a paper in 1991 about FSL modeling technology that made it possible to produce maps of surface and upper air weather conditions and, from them, generate short-term forecasts at three-hour intervals. The frequent updating of analyses and forecasts, which has become the operational Rapid Update Cycle of today, led to improved guidance for commercial flight planning and local weather services.

Contact information
Name: Rhonda K Lange
Tel: 303-497-6045