New Wing of Colorado State’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere Named after Founder Tom Vonder Haar

Note to Reporters: A photo of Tom Vonder Haar is available with the news release at

The Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, or CIRA, at Colorado State University on Thursday dedicated the building’s new wing to former CIRA director, Tom Vonder Haar.

Vonder Haar, an atmospheric science professor and one of only a dozen University Distinguished Professors, helped to spearhead the formation of CIRA in 1980 and served as the institute’s director for 28 years.

CIRA is a center for international cooperation that was established to increase the effectiveness of atmospheric research between Colorado State and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. CIRA’s research products help scientists around the globe understand atmospheric changes that affect weather and climate.

The 4,100-square-foot addition is a hybrid of office and university research space. Features include a director’s conference room, a break room with an attached outdoor patio and nine offices. The new construction also features a 53-foot-long steel “atmospheric bridge” that will accompany CIRA’s new Weather Satellite Laboratory and Education and Outreach Center, which will occupy the former conference room located in an adjacent wing of the CIRA building.

The new Education and Outreach Center includes a working weather lab and space to greet visitors with presentations and learning opportunities. With the new atmospheric bridge, visitors will get the unique opportunity to see satellite images of weather in the Fort Collins area.

“This new facility is a great testament to Dr. Vonder Haar’s long legacy of excellence in atmospheric science research at Colorado State,” said Rick Miranda, provost and executive vice president. “The great research productivity and outstanding national and international collaborations that come out of CIRA would not exist without the initial guidance and dedication from Tom and his crew.”

Since joining Colorado State in 1970, Vonder Haar has helped bring in more than $200 million in research funding to the university. At CIRA, his teams won multiple awards from organizations such as NASA, the National Park Service, NOAA and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Vonder Haar is one of a few university professors worldwide who has led NASA Earth science missions. In 1984, he was at Cape Kennedy watching Sally Ride’s historic second flight on the Challenger shuttle. On the flight was the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite that Vonder Haar and his team designed with NASA, the first satellite Colorado State sent into space with the agency.

In 2003, Vonder Haar was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest professional distinctions possible for an engineer or scientist, for his breakthrough measurements for understanding Earth’s climate.

Among his many awards and honors, Vonder Haar is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and additionally received the organization’s prestigious Second Half Century Award for leadership. He is recipient of the Abell Research and Graduate Education Award, was chairman of the World Climate Research Programme and was appointed to the National Advisory Committee for the Desert Research Institute. He serves on four NASA Science Teams, served as vice president of the International Radiation Commission and is a member of the Outstanding Educators of America.

CIRA is celebrating its 31st anniversary at Colorado State this year. In 2009, NOAA announced a 5-year renewal, potentially worth up to $64 million, of its formal research affiliation with CIRA. Selected through an open competitive process, the new agreement ensures that CIRA will continue its longstanding heritage of close collaborations with NOAA on satellite applications to improve regional and global-scale weather forecasts, water resource forecasts and provide integrated weather information to meet future aviation and surface transportation needs.

CIRA and the Department of Atmospheric Science are part of Colorado State’s College of Engineering.