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MARCH 2023

Antonio Busalacchi

Dear Colleagues,
I greatly enjoyed seeing so many of you at the American Meteorological Society meeting in January. Our engagement began the day before the meeting, as UCAR gave customized tours of the Mesa Lab for 100 AMS attendees on January 8. During the week, the redesigned UCAR/NCAR booth provided an opportunity for reconnecting with colleagues and making new connections with many students and others entering the field. One of the highlights for me was the UCAR Community Reception on January 9, when we welcomed about 350 attendees and special guests, including community leaders, sponsors, and partners, for an informal evening of great conversation, food and drinks. 

The community reception was planned and coordinated, in part, by the Friends of the National Center as one of its first acts since its relaunch in the fall. UCAR established Friends in 2017 as a fundraising effort to support early-career researchers as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. With its relaunch, Friends will continue that focus as well as provide additional value to both the staff of UCAR and NCAR and the broader Earth system science community, under the leadership of its new executive director, Sarah Swanson. Sarah brings more than 20 years of fundraising experience to her role, much of it focused on STEM education nonprofits. Building on the success of the UCAR Community Reception at AMS, Friends is excited to continue developing relationships across the community. 

I want to share the good news that the first research projects are expected to begin this spring on Derecho, the newest supercomputer at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center. The system has been installed in the last few months and is currently undergoing testing. Once fully operational, the 19.87-petaflops system will get 20% of its sustained computing capability from graphical processing units (GPUs), which are more effective than traditionally used central processing units (CPUs) for artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques. Derecho will enable NSF-funded researchers to push the boundaries of high-resolution modeling and facilitate significant advances in Earth system science. I am eagerly anticipating the results from the exciting research that will be conducted on this new system.

Engineering staff with HPE install the first racks of CPUs for the new Derecho supercomputer at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center.
I am also pleased to report that the Center for Ocean Leadership (COL) at UCAR has been moving forward with its programmatic work on ocean observing systems, education, and research. COL, which was formed under UCAR auspices when the Consortium for Ocean Leadership closed its doors last fall, is serving as the secretariat for a range of interagency and community committees and working groups, including the Interagency Ocean Observing Committee, MarineLife 2030, and the Ocean Air-Sea Interaction Strategy group. Over the past month, some 75 ocean science institutions and consortia from the academic, nonprofit, and industry sectors reaffirmed their affiliation with UCAR COL. The center is actively applying for new grants and funding opportunities on behalf of affiliated institutions, including regional ocean observing associations. These efforts are being overseen by Interim Director Andrew Rosenberg, who is chairing the search committee to hire a permanent center director. Please feel free to share the job posting.

Last month, the UCAR Board of Trustees visited Boulder for its first meeting of 2023. I am looking forward to working with new Chair Shuyi Chen and the six new trustees, and deeply appreciative of the service by former Chair Susan Avery and the outgoing trustees. The board expressed its full support of the organization’s Scientific Appointment Modernization (SAM) initiative, which looks at updating the current scientific career paths and structures at NCAR and UCAR Community Programs to ensure they provide ongoing opportunities for our current and future workforce and the scientific community. There was also strong support for advancing an NCAR-wide modeling strategy to bridge the gap between weather and climate across spatial and temporal scales. The trustees noted that NCAR scientists are doing important work in both areas, and a strategy to build closer connections and collaborations between the two is consistent with the leadership of a national center. 

The board also heard about our organization’s ambitious effort to dramatically reduce its carbon emissions. The Net Zero Initiative, which will kick off in the coming months, will target energy use, transportation, waste, water, and divestment with a goal of reducing our carbon emissions by 70% by the end of this decade, and bringing the organization’s operations to net zero by 2040. As we see the disastrous effects of climate change across the globe, it is critical for our organization to be a leader in the scientific community and heed the warnings of our own scientific research to help mitigate the impacts. 

Finally, I would like to note that we are approaching the one-year anniversary of UCAR Commons, the virtual gathering place where our community is engaging in discussions, sharing news, and keeping up to date on upcoming events and announcements. If you attend or work at one of our member universities and have yet to log on to UCAR Commons, please take the time to explore its various online communities, where you will find opportunities to post and respond to discussions that are important to our Earth system science community, including news about position vacancies, fellowships and internships, research, government relations, and education. We have recently added several important resources, including a consolidated list of archived presentations from labs and programs, as well as a consolidated list of lab and program directories to make it easier for members to connect with scientists and experts.

Best wishes to all of you.

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