Colorado State’s Department of Atmospheric Science Builds On40 Years of Teaching and Research Excellence

The Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University is celebrating four decades of teaching and research excellence while taking steps to ensure an even more successful future. As the internationally-renowned program celebrates its 40th anniversary, department head Steven Rutledge states that plans for the program’s future include new federally-funded multi-year satellite projects, expanded department disciplines and facilities, and an increased emphasis on community service and outreach.

"For the past 40 years, the atmospheric science department and its distinguished faculty have made amazing contributions to education and research," said Rutledge. "We are building on this tradition of success and creating an even stronger future for the program and its students. This department’s activities will benefit scientists and citizens alike for many years to come."

The atmospheric science department at Colorado State and the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, a center for international cooperation in weather research housed at Colorado State, are dedicating a new 15,000 square-foot research center on Wednesday. The new facility is home to some of the world’s most advanced remote-sensing satellite technology and will office several satellite research projects for studying global weather and climate.

One project already underway is CloudSat, an innovative NASA-funded satellite program that will use radar to measure cloud structures. The CloudSat satellite, planned for launch in 2004, will provide the first vertical cloud profiling from space, improving weather forecasts and advancing the understanding of key climatic processes. CloudSat results are expected to improve natural hazard mitigation, enhance water resource management and lead to the development of advanced satellite radar technologies.

Another recently begun project housed in the new facility is the Global Precipitation Mission, an international project led by NASA with key participation from several Colorado State researchers. The project will improve global rainfall analysis through the use of nine satellites which will study global climate-water cycle interactions, hydrometeorology, weather prediction and the global carbon budget. Planned for launch in 2007, the project includes a primary "core" satellite and eight smaller satellites that will provide advanced weather data at intervals of no more than every three hours at any spot on Earth.

According to Rutledge, other plans for the atmospheric science department include adding physical oceanography to the program. An oceanographer will be hired to teach courses and work with the department’s atmospheric modeling groups to couple interactive ocean models with the atmospheric predication models to enhance the study of climate change.

Department plans also call for a new state-of-the-art atmospheric chemistry lab and teaching facility, and another atmospheric chemist to expand the school’s strong program in the discipline. Additionally, department staff is working to secure a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center that will focus on developing innovative ways to model the climate system and improve weather prediction.

Another major focus of the department for the near and extended future is expanding outreach efforts, especially to involve local governments and citizens in collecting and utilizing valuable weather data. The CloudSat program and the department’s Colorado Climate Center have successful outreach programs that will serve as models for other department areas.

The Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University was founded in 1961 by tropical meteorologist Herbert Riehl. The department grew to eight faculty members by 1967 when it moved to a new atmospheric science building on the Foothills Campus west of Fort Collins.

The program’s facilities have continually expanded and now include: the main atmospheric science building which provides office and classroom space for 200 faculty, students and staff; the

Colorado Climate Center; the Atmospheric Simulation and Chemistry Laboratory; the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere; the Solar Village; an advanced weather analysis laboratory; a satellite receiving and analysis laboratory; the CSU-CHILL Weather Research Radar facility; the Doppler Radar wind profiler and many other observation facilities.

Colorado State’s atmospheric science department currently has 95 graduate students, 15 academic faculty members and brings in more than $10 million annually in sponsored research. The department has awarded approximately 250 doctoral and 500 master’s degrees, and many of its graduates are now in leadership positions in the atmospheric science field. The department does not offer a bachelor’s degree although several undergraduate courses are available.

The program is unique among atmospheric science departments throughout the country in the amount and consistency of funding by the National Science Foundation and the high number of professional achievements and awards received by faculty and graduates.

Department faculty are currently engaged in interdisciplinary research across a broad spectrum of the atmospheric sciences. The sponsors of these research projects include the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Naval Research, State of Colorado, Department of the Interior, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Current and former faculty, program graduates and special guests are in town today (July 9) and Wednesday to discuss the past, present and future of the department, as well as highlight current atmospheric science research in the areas of global warming, climate change, rainfall variability, global precipitation analysis, hurricane forecasting and several other topics. The new building dedication and tours will conclude the two day event on Wednesday afternoon. The event is by invitation only; media professionals are welcome to attend Wednesday’s dedication celebration and poster presentation beginning at 12:30 p.m.

For more information about the atmospheric science department, its history and its future, visit the Web at To arrange tours of the department’s new research facility or interviews with professors, please contact Brad Bohlander at (970) 491-1545.