BROOMFIELD — The National Center for Atmospheric Research and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research on Wednesday celebrated the official completion of its redeveloped Research Aviation Facility at the Rocky Mountain Regional Airport. The project was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Dignitaries including Gov. Jared Polis and Rep. Ed Perlmutter were on hand for the ribbon-cutting.
“This facility is going to do so much important work,” Polis said. “We are so proud that Colorado has created really the best research ecosystem in the country. NCAR is the corner of that ecosystem and has been for decades.”
The Research Aviation Facility was first built in 1964 to help facilitate critical research into weather, water, climate, and air quality. It’s home to two aircraft — a Gulfstream V and a C-130 — that serve as flying laboratories across the globe.
Their projects have included studying wildfire plumes to see how smoke impacts weather, air quality, and climate; sampling air over icy stretches of ocean to investigate how much carbon the water can store; measuring the Sun’s corona from above the clouds during a solar eclipse; cataloging industrial emissions and more.
“We enjoy in our area science that is really second to none,” Perlmutter said. “The science that we have in Colorado, particularly up and down the Front Range, is phenomenal.”
The new 42,931-square-foot building, which cost $25 million to construct, will make these kinds of projects easier by providing more lab space, storage space and collaborative working areas. NCAR director Everette Joseph praised his team’s work to keep projects going while the construction work was ongoing.
“They have made heroic efforts to keep field campaigns going while this facility was being constructed,” he said.
Joseph said that currently, the facility’s Gulfstream is in South Korea to study how summer monsoons affect atmospheric chemistry and global climate — an example of how critical the facility’s work is as the global climate continues to shift.
“We are really living in an era of unprecedented environmental challenges,” Joseph said. “For society to be more resilient, we need to improve our ability to understand the Earth system. We need to have more observations to help us learn how the atmosphere interacts with the ocean and the Earth’s surface. The lack of this information limits the ability of our weather and climate prediction systems to give us what we need in the time we need it. This is the kind of work supported by this facility that we can all agree is more important than ever before.”
Said Polis: “This new facility really will help make sure this important work has a center, an up-to-date location and nexus to continue to lead the nation and the world for decades to come; that’s what’s so exciting about the start we are celebrating today.”