Laboratory for Atmospheres 2003 Technical Highlights: Section 2 Staff, Organization, and Facilities

2.1 Staff

The diverse staff of the Laboratory for Atmospheres is made up of scientists, engineers, technicians, administrative assistants, and resource analysts, with a total staff of about 302.

The civil servant composition of the Laboratory consists of 69 members, plus 14 co-located members (5 resource analysts, 1 scientist, 4 engineers, and 4 technicians). Of the 69 in-house civil servants, 61 are scientists, 3 are engineers, and 1 a technician. Out of the 64 civil servant scientists and engineers, 90% hold doctoral degrees.

An integral part of the Laboratory staff is composed of onsite research associates and contractors. The research associates are primarily members of joint centers between the Earth Sciences Directorate and nearby university associations (JCET1, GEST2, and ESSIC3), or are employed by universities with which the Laboratory has a collaborative relationship such as George Mason University, University of Arizona, and Georgia Tech. Out of the 76 research associates, 84% hold Ph.D.’s. The onsite contractors are a very important component of the staffing of the Laboratory. Out of the total of 143 onsite contractors, 22% hold Ph.D.’s. The make up of our Laboratory, therefore, is 28% are civil servants, 25% are associates, and 47% are contractors.

A measure of the productivity of the Laboratory members and of their extensive collaboration with outside scientists is shown in Figure 2-1.

1 Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology
2 Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology
3 Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center

Chart of number of refereed publications by Laboratory for Atmospheres members over the years.

Figure 2-1. Number of refereed publications by Laboratory for Atmospheres members over the years. The red bar is the total number of publications where a Laboratory member is the prime author or co-author, and the blue bar is the number of publications where a Laboratory member is prime author. The chart exhibits a trend over time for increased collaboration, where Laboratory members are co-authors on papers where the prime author is a colleague.

2.2 Organization

The management and branch structure for the Laboratory for Atmospheres is shown in Figure 2-2.

Laboratory for Atmospheres management and branch structure.

Figure 2. Laboratory for Atmospheres Organization Chart.

2.3 Branch Descriptions

The Laboratory has traditionally been organized into branches; however, we work on science projects that are becoming more and more cross-disciplinary. Branch members collaborate with each other within their branch, across branches, and across Divisions within the Directorate. Some of the recent cross- disciplinary research themes of interest in the Laboratory are the Global Water and Energy Cycle, Carbon Cycle, Weather and Short-Term Climate Forecasting, Long-Term Climate Change, Atmospheric Chemistry, Aerosols, and Planetary Studies. The composition of the Senior Staff Office (910) and the four branches is broken down by Civil Servant, Associate, and Contractor in Figure 2-3.

Employment composition of the members of the Laboratory for Atmospheres.

Figure 2-3. Employment composition of the members of the Laboratory for Atmospheres.

A brief description is given for each of the Laboratory’s four Branches. Later, in Section 5, the Branch Heads summarize the science goals and achievements of their branches. The branch summaries are supplemented by a selection of press releases and samples of highlighted papers, given in Appendices A1 and A2, respectively.

Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Branch, Code 912

The Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Branch studies the physics and dynamics of atmospheric processes, using satellite, aircraft, and surface-based remote sensing observations, as well as computer-based simulations. This Branch develops advanced remote sensing instrumentation (with an emphasis on Lidar) and techniques to measure meteorological conditions in the troposphere. Key areas of investigation are cloud and precipitation systems and their environments—from individual cloud systems, fronts, and cyclones, to regional and global climate. Further information about Branch activities may be found on the Web (

Climate and Radiation Branch, Code 913

The Climate and Radiation Branch conducts basic and applied research with the goal of improving our understanding of regional and global climate. This group focuses on the radiative and dynamical processes that lead to the formation of clouds and precipitation and on the effects of these processes on the water and energy cycles of the Earth. Currently, the major research thrusts of the Branch are climate diagnostics, remote sensing applications, hydrologic processes and radiation, aerosol–climate interactions, seasonal-to-interannual variability of climate, and biospheric processes related to the carbon cycle. Further information about Branch activities may be found on the Web (

Atmospheric Experiment Branch, Code 915

The Atmospheric Experiment Branch carries out experimental investigations to further our understanding of the formation and evolution of various solar system objects such as planets, their satellites, and comets. Investigations address the composition and structure of planetary atmospheres, and the physical phenomena occurring in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. We have developed and are constantly refining neutral gas, ion, and gas chromatograph mass spectrometers to measure atmospheric gas composition using entry probes and orbiting satellites. Further information about Branch activities may be found on the Web (

Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Branch, Code 916

The Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Branch conducts research in the distribution and variability of atmospheric ozone: 1) by making new measurements; 2) by analyzing existing data; and 3) by theoretically modeling the chemistry and transport of trace gases that control the behavior of ozone. An emerging research focus is on the characterization of sources, sinks, and transport of aerosols, carbon dioxide, and ozone in the troposphere. Further information on Branch activities may be found on the Web (

Branch Web sites may also be found by clicking on the Laboratory home page, (

2.4 Facilities

Computing Capabilities

Computing capabilities used by the Laboratory range from high-performance supercomputers to scientific workstations to desktop personal computers. Each Branch maintains its own system of computers that are a combination of Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X computers. Faster, low-cost, clustered Linux computers are gradually replacing the existing high-cost SGI UNIX workstations. The major portion of scientific data analysis and manipulation, and image viewing is still done on the cluster machines with increasing amounts of data analysis and imaging done on single user personal computers.

The Laboratory for Atmospheres’ Mass Spectrometry Laboratory is equipped with unique facilities for designing, fabricating, assembling, calibrating, and testing flight-qualified mass spectrometers used for atmospheric sampling. The equipment includes precision tools and machining equipment, material processing equipment, and calibration systems capable of simulating planetary atmospheres. The facility has been used to develop instruments for exploring the atmospheres of Earth, Venus, Saturn, and Mars (on orbiting spacecraft), and of Jupiter and Titan (on probes). The Mass Spectrometry Laboratory will also be used in support of future comet missions, Venus entry probes, and Mars surface lander missions. In addition, the Laboratory has clean rooms for flight instrument assembly and equipment for handling poisonous and explosive gases. The facilities are maintained, operated, and used by a core group of civil service and onsite contractor personnel.


The Laboratory has well-equipped facilities to develop lidar systems for airborne and ground-based measurements of aerosols, methane, ozone, water vapor, pressure, temperature, and winds. Lasers capable of generating radiation from 266 nm to beyond 1,000 nm are available, as is a range of sensitive photon detectors for use throughout this wavelength region. The lidar systems employ telescopes with primaries up to 30 in in diameter and high-speed counting systems for obtaining high vertical resolution.

The Cloud, Aerosol, Lidar, Radiometer Laboratory has specialized facilities for optical instrument development, including optical tables, large auto-collimator (40 cm), air handlers, and flow benches. Lidars developed in the Laboratory include the Airborne Raman Ozone, Temperature, and Aerosol Lidar (AROTAL) to measure ozone, temperature, and aerosols; the Stratosphere Ozone Lidar Trailer Experiment (STROZ LITE), to measure atmospheric ozone, temperature, and aerosols; the Aerosol and Temperature Lidar (AT Lidar) to measure stratospheric temperature and aerosols, and tropospheric water vapor; the Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL), to measure clouds and aerosols; the Scanning Raman Lidar (SRL), to measure water vapor, aerosols, and cloud water; and the Goddard Lidar Observatory for Winds (GLOW), which uses an edge technique to measure winds. A cloud and aerosol lidar, is currently being built for deployment to Kiritimati Island., Republic of Kiribati. The Kiritimati Island Lidar Trailer (KILT) will be deployed in 2004. A CPL system is also being designed for future Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) applications.

The Holographic Lidar Technology Laboratory is an optical facility for the development of Earth Science lidar instrument technologies. The laboratory specializes in advancing the state of the art in large aperture scanning components and systems that use holographic optic elements enabling new lidar measurements from space, ground-based, and airborne platforms. Instruments and data processing algorithms are also developed for using scanning in all manner of lidar applications. The lab also houses the Holographic Airborne Rotating Lidar Instrument Experiment (HARLIE) data archives and is used to service the HARLIE lidar and other instruments.

The Wind Lidar Laboratory is a laser electro-optical facility for the development, alignment and characterization of Earth Science Lidar instrument systems and technologies for atmospheric profiling of winds. Instruments and component technologies are developed for eventual use in ground-based and airborne research Lidar applications. Concepts and technologies for eventual spaceborne wind lidar systems are also developed. Current lidar instruments supported in the laboratory are Goddard Lidar Observatory for Winds (GLOW) and cloud THickness from Offbeam Returns (THOR). In addition, component lidar technologies developed in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO)-sponsored (Advanced Technologies Initiative Program (ATIP) and Advantaged Component Technology (ACT) programs, Independent Research and Development (IRAD), and other NASA technology development programs are characterized and tested in the laboratory. Some of the technologies examined in the laboratory in the past year have included single frequency lasers, photon counting detectors, photon counting electronics, and experimental fiber coupled Doppler receiver concepts.

The Raman Lidar Laboratory has instrumentation for performing a broad range of atmospheric measurements using backscatter, polarization, and Raman lidar techniques. Recent activities in the Lab include multiwavelength lidar measurements for studying aerosol and cloud properties, and spectrally scanned measurements of Raman scattering from atmospheric CO2, O2, N2, water vapor, and liquid water. In addition, the Raman Airborne Spectroscopic Lidar (RASL), recently developed under the Instrument Incubator Program, has completed successful testing in the Raman Lidar Laboratory and is currently being configured for first flight. RASL offers daytime and nighttime measurements of water vapor mixing ratio, aerosol backscattering, aerosol extinction, and aerosol depolarization as well as nighttime measurements of cloud liquid water.

The next generation Micro-pulse Lidar (MPL) design was recently prototyped in our Laboratory, and is undergoing transfer to a company to become a commercial product. The next generation MPL includes more rugged components for better durability in the field, a longer lasting laser system, a fiber coupled detector arrangement for in-the-field repair, a multi-channel data system to include measurement of the Lidar overlap function in real-time, and computer control of all the MPL components via an internet connection. Members of the Laboratory are building a new Lidar calibration facility called SLAM (Small Lidar Advanced Measurement). It will be used primarily to calibrate and maintain the several MPL systems here at Goddard, and other privately owned MPL systems that are part of our MPLNET project. It can also be used to calibrate other small optics.

Radiometric Calibration and Development Facility

The Radiometric Calibration and Development Facility (RCDF) supports the calibration and development of instruments for ground and space-based observations of atmospheric composition including gases and aerosols. As part of the Earth Observing System (EOS) calibration program, the RCDF provides calibrations for all ultraviolet–visible (UV/VIS) spaceborne solar backscatter instruments, which include Solar Ultraviolet/Version 2 (SBUV/2) and Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) instruments. Calibrations were conducted on the Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Cartography (SCIAMACHY), flying on the European Space Agency (ESA) Environmental Satellite (ENVISAT) mission; the Odin Spectrometer and Infrared (IR) Imager System (OSIRIS), on the Canada/Sweden Odin mission; and the Israeli Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX) and the Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment/Limb Ozone Retrieval Experiment (SOLSE/LORE) shuttle instruments. Calibrations are scheduled for the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on Aura and the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment-2 (GOME-2) on future European polar orbiting environmental satellites (POES) known as “Metop.”

The RCDF also supports Instrument Incubator Program (IIP) instruments such as the Geostationary Spectrometer (GeoSpec). The SOLSE/LORE were also developed in the RCDF. The RDCF also houses several instruments for conducting zenith sky observations. The instrument that flew on the Space Shuttle eight times during the period of 1989 to 1996 is now routinely collecting zenith sky observations as part of the Code 916 program called Skyrad. The objective of this program is to improve radiative transfer models and algorithms used for UV/VIS space and ground-based backscatter instruments. The RDCF also maintains a double Brewer spectrometer, used as field calibration transfer, and several other sky-observing instruments for composition and aerosol research. Experiments are being conducted to determine if calibrated zenith sky observations can be used to validate radiance observed from space. This technique could be applicable to present UV/VIS backscatter flight instruments and future operational instruments on NPP1, NPOESS, and Metop. The RCDF contains state-of-the-art calibration equipment and standards traceable to the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST). Calibration capabilities include wavelength, linearity, signal to noise (SN), instantaneous field of view (IFOV), field of regard (FOR), and goniometry. The facility is also capable of characterizing such instrument subsystems as spectral dispersers and detectors. A tunable dye laser operating in the UV/VIS is also used to measure optical filter characteristics with high accuracy and to characterize instrument throughput such as slit functions and wavelength registration. The facility includes a class 10,000 clean room with a continuous source of N2 for added contamination control. For further information contact Ernest Hilsenrath:, or visit the Web site at

1National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project