U.S. Department of Defense Awards $2 Million to Colorado State University’s Center for Geosciences

Colorado State University’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, or CIRA, has received an additional $2 million from the U.S. Department of Defense for continued atmospheric and hydrologic research that supports U.S. military efforts.

The DOD’s Center for Geosciences/Atmospheric Research, a fixture at CIRA for 21 years, has received tens of millions of dollars in funding from the federal government.

"Funding from the Department of Defense is critical to the success of programs like the Center for Geosciences/Atmospheric research at CSU. Their investment results in practical solutions to real problems in today’s world," said Bill Farland, vice president for Research at CSU. "As a top research university and 21st-century land-grant institution, CSU values the opportunity to apply the outcomes of its nearly $300 million in annual research expenditures to solving important global problems."

Long-term relationships between research organizations such as Colorado State and the DOD are critical to national security, as Colorado’s Congressional delegation has argued in securing the center’s additional funds. The Center for Geosciences/ Atmospheric Research, for example, provided cave detection technology for anti-Taliban operations within a month of 9/11 and has helped address how clouds and ice affect certain military airspace zones.

"We are grateful to Colorado’s Congressional delegation, including Congresswoman Musgrave and Senators Allard and Salazar, for continued support of this critical research," said Tom Vonder Haar, director of CIRA and the center’s principal investigator. "The battlefield environment presents specific challenges to the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force during wartime as well as during humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts."

The research is vital to the armed services because U.S. aircraft operations and missile defense systems used in homeland security 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.

The Center for Geosciences/Atmospheric Research has five main research themes:

– Hydrometeorology – Emphasis in soil moisture remote sensing, advanced hydrological stream and over-lands flow models, and quantitative precipitation analysis and forecasting.

– Clouds, Icing, and Aerosols Effects – Explores advanced concepts in cloud analysis and classification. One experiment investigates mid-level non-precipitating clouds that are particularly relevant to military operations and radiative properties of the atmosphere; another focuses on the detection of aerosols and their chemistry and radiative characteristics as measured by satellite sensors.

– Environmental Modeling and Assimilation – Explores advanced concepts in data assimilation and conducts studies that promise to improve forecast model use of satellite and observational data and to provide improved dispersion modeling for aerosol distribution.

– Urban and Boundary Layer Environment – Emphasis on the chemical dispersion issue and other considerations in support of urban warfare, the current primary combat mode.

– Remote Sensing of Battlespace Parameters – Explores improved microwave and infrared retrievals to allow remote sensing of surface moisture, temperature and atmospheric water vapor.

CIRA is a center for international cooperation in research and training based at Colorado State University. CIRA was first established to increase the effectiveness of atmospheric research in areas of interest between Colorado State and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and has developed into a leader in many areas of climate research.