The environmental problems of today are challenging. The successful studies of those problems have demanded an integrated approach that not only crosses the traditional disciplinary lines, but requires that the problems be studied from many angles. This means that field studies, theoretical research, and laboratory measurements must all be brought to bear in the search for scientific understanding.
At CSL, the approach to studying atmospheric problems is to attack from all sides: field, theory, and laboratory. One of the hallmarks of CSL is that it is comprised of scientists who are experts in all three of these areas and who work separately and together to study the atmosphere.
The field component of the division's research involves in-situ and remote measurement of chemical composition (with an emphasis on the reactive species) and dynamic properties (such as wind velocity, turbulence, and wave motion). Theoretical research, in the areas of atmospheric photochemical modeling and atmospheric dynamics and transport, builds a conceptual picture of how the atmosphere "works" and gains a predictive capability. An experimental laboratory chemical kinetics program characterizes the fundamental photochemical atmospheric processes (such as the rate of chemical reactions and their reaction products).
These three components of CSL's research are extensively cross-linked. The division program often supplies input to the theoretical models and frequently helps in the development of new instruments that are needed for field measurements. The modeling investigations often point to the need for new laboratory studies and field measurements. The field research often suggests new directions for laboratory investigations and can provide critical diagnostic tests of model predictions.
CSL organization consists of a Directorate and seven Research Programs, the research focal points within the division. While each one focuses on a particular component of research (e.g., tropospheric chemistry) and on a particular approach (e.g., theory and modeling), much of the division's research involves more than one Research Group. For example, about 20% of the division's publications are co-authored by researchers from more than one Research Group.
A good example of this research method is on the role of iodine in the atmosphere. The work was initiated with theoretical studies that indicated that iodine might be the "forgotten halogen" with regard to depletion of ozone in the stratosphere. Scientists in CSL's Chemistry & Climate Processes program looked at the possibilities with a state-of-the-art chemical/dynamical model, finding that, indeed, there may be mechanisms by which enough iodine could reach that stratosphere to have an impact on the ozone layer. But laboratory studies of the possible chemical reactions were lacking, and so scientists in the Atmospheric Chemical Processes program commenced research to provide the missing information. Scientists in both of those programs are working together to see if field measurements of the iodine-containing gases are achievable.
CSL partners with Joint Institutes of various universities. The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) was founded in 1967 as a joint endeavor of the University of Colorado and the NOAA laboratories in Boulder. Over the years CIRES has played a vital role in the local Federal-State venture involving the University and the NOAA laboratories in Boulder (including a longstanding and fruitful relationship with CSL). The CIRES/NOAA relationship has fostered both graduate and undergraduate careers by enabling young scientists to contribute to federal research. That research, in turn, has greatly benefitted from the infusion of talent and ideas from the University community, and much has been published. In the first five years of the division, 45% of all CSL publications are Joint Institute shared author papers. Approximately 60% of CSL is associated with CIRES. This includes the full range of personnel that make up the division: students, postdoctoral associates, career scientists, engineers, and technical support staff.
Young scientists from many university graduate programs begin their postdoctoral research career at CSL. In addition to the Joint Institutes noted above, an important program for bringing in these scientists has been the Postdoctoral Research Associates Program of the National Research Council (NRC). During any given year, CSL has 2-3 postdoctoral researchers that are supported through this NRC program. Nearly 20 of CSL's scientists serve as advisors. There can be no doubt that the NRC program succeeds at its mission of furthering the career preparation of young researchers: upon completion of the NRC appointment, Associates move on to established positions throughout the nation and world. Many CSL staff are former NRC postdocs. Occasionally, CSL is host to scientists in the NRC's Senior Research Associates program.
In addition to the interactions among the internal groups of CSL noted above, another hallmark of the division's research through the years has been collaborative activities. CSL collaborates extensively with the other laboratories of ESRL, other NOAA OAR labs, and other NOAA Line Offices. CSL scientists work extensively with international partners (e.g., the United Kingdom Meteorological Office and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of New Zealand) and other national research institutions: universities, other agencies, and the private sector. The most telling indication is that over half of CSL publications involve co-authors from other institutions. In addition to these basic scientist-scientist collaborations, CSL has been involved in many jointly planned and conducted field campaigns, in which inter-organizational breadth was one of the key factors in carrying out the campaign. Several of these have involved a very advantageous, long-standing, and close working partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).