Researchers at Colorado State University’s Center for Geosciences are supporting the nation’s security efforts by providing environmental research to Army, Navy and Air Force scientists for use in homeland defense. The center recently received a $1.8 million federal grant to continue and enhance its 16-year history of providing research to the Department of Defense.
"The current grant will go toward the study of weather phenomena and how they affect military operations," said Tom Vonder Haar, University Distinguished Professor of atmospheric science and director of the Geosciences Center. "U.S. aircraft operations in the war against terrorism and local area missile defense for the homeland are both significantly affected by weather conditions."
In an age of precision-guided weapons, virtual reality simulations and satellite coverage of battlefields are sensitive to weather phenomena. Atmospheric clouds and moisture can adversely impact air to ground target views that are vitally important to the military’s reconnaissance and post-strike processes. Additionally, laser designators used by land forces to mark targets such as caves are sensitive to fog and haze.
"The armed forces must be able to accurately locate and mark targets before bombs or other munitions can be effectively utilized and additionally need the ability to pinpoint targets for assessment after a strike," said Kenneth Eis, deputy director of the Geosciences Center. "Weather can negatively impact these processes, but research at the center is helping to overcome challenges imposed by weather phenomena."
The center is currently assisting with the change in the geo-political landscape by producing a global-scale cloud database at an unprecedented resolution. The database will be used to support global simulations of military operations in extreme climate conditions, to train pilots and to aid in forecasting.
With the new threat of biological weapons, the center has additionally been conducting research regarding low-level air flow, which is important due to fears of anthrax and other biological weapons. Another current area of research is hydrological modeling in response to concerns about the spread of toxic materials.
Since its inception in 1986, the center’s research has focused on weather and hydrological phenomena and their impacts on defense and security. The center has received nearly $2 million per year from the defense department to conduct basic and applied research, working with defense labs to fit results to military needs.
The Center for Geosciences is a multidisciplinary effort housed in Colorado State University’s College of Engineering that includes faculty from the Colleges of Engineering, Natural Sciences and Natural Resources.