Understanding Our Earth With UCAR

Understanding the behavior of our atmosphere is vital to preserving the future of our Earth, and the natural resources we rely on. Scientists across the country are dedicated to researching the areas of atmospheric research and Earth system sciences. Welcome to UCAR, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, where a consortium of universities, academic affiliates, and scientists are connected to better understand everything from solar storms to wildfires.


Step inside the new NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center and learn how supercomputers (and the brilliant people who use them) are helping us understand the interconnections between the atmosphere, our oceans, climate, weather, vegetation, urban development and us.

Capturing Carbon

Burning coal, oil, and other fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, or CO2, into the atmosphere, with potentially serious damaging effects. Ron Surdam, director of the Carbon Management Institute at the University of Wyoming, explains efforts to discover geological sites that could be used to keep some of the CO2 emitted by human activity out of the atmosphere. Mohammad Piri, UW professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, is working on ways to get the CO2 from industrial sources to such underground sites.

Understanding Our World

The atmosphere is a fluid surrounding all of our planet, so we look at it globally, explains NCAR scientist John Fasullo. Climate scientists study the interaction of the atmosphere, vegetation, ice, oceans, and the Sun using computer models to help answer questions about the complex Earth system--past, present, and future.

The Air We Breathe

NCAR scientist Christine Wiedinmyer describes the ingredients in a smog cocktail: mix the natural chemicals emitted by vegetation with the chemicals we produce from human activities and add a dash of sunlight.

Blue Planet

Water is the lifeblood of the planet, says Scott Miller, a watershed hydrologist at the University of Wyoming. He explains how computer modeling can help us understand changes in the water cycle, and how changes in land management, population, and climate will affect the supply of water. Fred Ogden, a UW water resource and environmental science engineer, is studying ways to assure the accurate measurement of the flow rate in rivers. Predicting the availability of water resources in the West presents many challenges. Ogden is part of studies using field research, lab studies, and computer model development to tackle the challenges.

NCAR's Air Force

NCAR field project specialist Vidal Salazar explains how research aircraft benefit atmospheric research. NCAR manages two aircraft for the National Science Foundation: the C-130 gathers data at very low altitudes and slower speeds, while the Gulfstream V makes measurements at higher altitudes and over longer distances.

Climate, Weather, And Health

hat's a medical anthropologist doing at an atmospheric research center? NCAR's Mary Hayden describes efforts to understand the connections between climate, weather, and health.

Brewing Storms

A lot of the weather with a big local impact comes in smaller-sized packages. That relatively small size makes thunderstorms, tornadoes, and local blizzards much harder to predict than big winter storms or hurricanes that can be tracked over several days. NCAR scientist Morris Weisman explains how recent advances are revealing the fine-scale structure of storms and improving forecasts.

The Heart Of Yellowstone: Inside A Supercomputer

Get an up-close view inside one of the most complicated machines ever built by humanity. NCAR computer scientist Rich Loft is our guide to some of the vital parts within the new Yellowstone supercomputing system. Installed at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne, the IBM system includes a cluster of high-performance supercomputing processors, a massive data archiving facility, and a special system for visualizing scientific data. The system is made up of 100 racks--tall, black, refrigerator-sized cabinets. Each rack is filled with computing nodes, and each of those nodes holds computer chips made up of processors containing billions of transistors. Let Rich show you around this seldom-seen environment.

Storms In Space

We depend on the Sun for heat and light, but there's a lot more going on than meets the eye," says NCAR solar physicist Scott McIntosh. On a whirlwind tour of the Sun's magnetic forces, MacIntosh describes the impact solar storms can have on Earth's environment and explains how scientists study this powerhouse of mass and energy.

The Power Of Wind

NCAR researcher Bill Mahoney and University of Wyoming professor Jonathan Naughton describe advances in managing the power of wind.

The Fury Of Fire

NCAR scientist Janice Coen on the latest research to better understand and predict the erratic behavior of wildfires.