Laboratory for Atmospheres 2003 Technical Highlights: Section 1 Introduction

Mission: Advance Knowledge and Understanding of the Atmospheres of the Earth and Other Planets

How can we improve our ability to predict the weather tomorrow, next week, and into the future?

How is the Earth's climate changing? What causes such change? And what are its costs?

What can the atmospheres of distant planets teach us about our own planet and its evolution?

The Laboratory for Atmospheres is helping to answer these and other scientific questions about our planet and its neighbors. The Laboratory conducts a broad theoretical and experimental research program studying the atmospheres of Earth and the other planets. These studies include atmospheric structure, dynamics, chemistry, and radiative properties, with the overarching goal of providing better understanding and, therefore, better prediction of Earth’s climate.

The Laboratory for Atmospheres is a vital participant in NASA's research program. Our Laboratory often has relatively large programs, sizable satellite missions, or observational campaigns that require the cooperative and collaborative efforts of many scientists. We ensure an appropriate balance between our scientists' responsibility for these large collaborative projects and their need for an active individual research agenda. This balance allows members of the Laboratory to continuously improve their scientific credentials.

The Laboratory places high importance on promoting and measuring quality in its scientific research. We strive to assure high quality through peer-review funding processes that support approximately 90% of the work in the Laboratory. The overall quality and direction of scientific efforts in our Laboratory and the Earth Sciences Directorate is evaluated by committees of advisors from the external scientific community (see Appendix B2 on the Web site noted below).

Members of the Laboratory interact with the general public to support a wide range of interests in the atmospheric sciences. Among other activities, the Laboratory raises the public's awareness of atmospheric science by presenting public lectures and demonstrations, by making scientific data available to wide audiences, by teaching, and by mentoring students and teachers. The Laboratory is also committed to addressing the demographic imbalances that exist today in the atmospheric and space sciences. We must address these imbalances for our field to enjoy the full benefit of all of the Nation's talent. The Laboratory makes substantial efforts to attract new scientists to the fields of atmospheric and space sciences. We strongly encourage the establishment of partnerships with federal and state agencies that have operational responsibilities to promote the societal application of Earth Science.

The Laboratory is part of the Earth Sciences Directorate (Code 900) based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Directorate itself is composed of the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (900.3); the Global Change Data Center (902); the Earth and Space Data Computing Division (930); three laboratories—the Laboratory for Atmospheres (910), the Laboratory for Terrestrial Physics (920), and the Laboratory for Hydrospheric Processes (970); and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, New York.

This report describes our role in NASA's mission, gives a broad description of our research, and summarizes our scientists' major accomplishments in 2003. The report also contains useful information on human resources, scientific interactions, and outreach activities. This report is published in two versions: (1) an abbreviated print version, and (2) an unabridged electronic version, here at the Laboratory for Atmospheres Web site. Appendices B1–B8 appear only in the electronic version of the report.