Colorado State’s Center for Geosciences Receives $1 Million from Congress for Continuing Research in Support of National Security

Colorado State University’s Center for Geosciences/Atmospheric Research recently received continuing Congressional authorization and financial support for its Department of Defense-funded research that supports the nation’s security efforts. The $1 million federal award is ensuring the multidisciplinary Geosciences Center will enhance its 17-year history of providing atmospheric and environmental research to Army, Navy and Air Force missions.

"The battlefield environment presents specific challenges to the Army, Navy and Air Force during wartime," said Thomas H. Vonder Haar, University Distinguished Professor and director of Colorado State’s Center for Geosciences/Atmospheric Research. "In addition, there are other special environmental challenges associated with DOD peacekeeping, training exercises and humanitarian operations."

Colorado State’s Geosciences Center is a DOD-sponsored research center that focuses on the study of weather phenomena and how they affect military operations, including investigations of fog, cloud layering, cloud drift winds and the dynamics of cloud persistence. Through ongoing collaborations with the Army Research Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory and the Air Force Weather Agency, the Geosciences Center fine-tunes its research in key areas: hydrometeorology; cloud structure, dynamics and climatology; 4-dimensional data assimilation and fusion; boundary layer atmospheric chemistry and aerosols; derivation of battlespace parameters; and a cross-cutting theme, urban environment.

The research is vital to the armed services because U.S. aircraft operations and missile defense systems for the homeland are significantly affected by weather conditions. Precision-guided weapons, virtual reality simulations and satellite coverage of battlefields also are sensitive to weather phenomena. Atmospheric clouds and moisture can adversely impact air-to-ground target views that are important to the military’s reconnaissance and post-strike processes. Additionally, laser designators used by land forces to mark land targets such as bunkers are sensitive to fog and haze.

"Weather can negatively impact all of these processes," said Kenneth Eis, lead in the center’s technology transfer activity. "Research at the center is helping the U.S. armed forces to overcome these and a variety of challenges imposed by weather phenomena."

The Geosciences Center currently is producing a global-scale cloud database at an unprecedented resolution that will be used to support global simulations of military operations in extreme conditions, to train pilots and to aid in forecasting. Researchers at the center have also 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 Geosciences Center works with defense labs to fit results to specific military needs. Several Colorado State faculty, graduate students and research staff are involved from the departments of atmospheric science, civil engineering and electrical and computer engineering.

The Center for Geosciences/Atmospheric Research is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, or CIRA, a center for international cooperation in research and training, covering virtually all physical, economic and societal aspects of weather and climate. CIRA was established to increase the effectiveness of atmospheric research in areas of mutual interest between Colorado State and NOAA and has developed into an international leader in several areas of climate research, including applications of meteorological satellite imagery, air quality, visibility, forecasting, agricultural meteorology, cloud physics and atmospheric model evaluation. More information about CIRA is available on the Web at