August 1, 2017
Project Location: 
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Project Description: 

NCAR’s Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL) jointly with the University of Wyoming (UWYO) and the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR) participated in the Wyoming National Guard Open House on 25 July 2017, as part of the Cheyenne Frontier Days. The display drew an estimated 4,500 visitors to the 153rd  Airlift Wing base in Cheyenne, WY. The NSF/NCAR C-130, the University of Wyoming King Air, and one CSWR Doppler On Wheels were part of a large, static display that also included several C-130s configured to highlight combat airlift, aerial firefighting and aeromedical evacuation missions, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, and the USAF Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron.

For close to six hours, a total of 22 staff from NCAR (EOL and CISL), UWYO and CSWR interacted with a steady stream of visitors and military personnel to talk about atmospheric science, observing facilities, instrumentation and field campaigns. In addition to tours of the facilities, CSWR carried out five weather balloon launches throughout the day. One of the main goals of our presence was to raise awareness with the public that Colorado and Wyoming institutions, particularly those funded by NSF, play an important role in meteorological research, both from an observational standpoint and from the modeling side. In interactions with an estimated 2,200 individuals, facility staff from these three partner organizations highlighted the significant investments that the National Science Foundation has made in those two mountain states, and how those resources address a wide range of phenomena ranging from severe weather to air pollution. One CISL staff was on site to highlight the NCAR Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) as well as the new Cheyenne super computer and its importance to scientists across the country. Staff pointed out some of the activities made possible by the resources available through the NWSC, such as projections of seasonal and longer-term weather and climate variability and change, and improved weather and water forecasts that are needed by economic sectors from agriculture and energy to transportation and tourism. Visitors were encouraged to add the NWSC to their list of places to visit during Frontier Days.

While rain and low clouds lead to the cancellation of the air show featuring the USAF Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, thousands of Cheyenne Frontier Days tourists and members of the local community took the opportunity to visit the base and learn more about the missions, capabilities, and equipment. The diverse group of staff from NCAR, CSWR and UWY, which included pilots, engineers, mechanics, technicians, scientists, and project managers, actively engaged with the public by explaining airborne instrumentation, giving short tours of the aircraft and DOW, describing the science that is routinely conducted, and answering questions about hurricanes, tornadoes, air pollution and solar eclipses. Some of the most common questions asked was whether the NSF/NCAR C-130 flies into hurricanes, whether the DOW drives into tornadoes, and whether upsondes and dropsondes can be recovered.

EOL prepared an informational flier specifically geared to the general public (Figure 4). UCAR’s Communications Office advertised the event to a selected group of local news agencies and provided basic media training to participants. The event was advertised on social media and on the EOL and University of Wyoming websites

In summary, participants from all three partner organizations agree that the event was a worthwhile undertaking and increased the visibility of NSF-funded research platforms with the local community. Despite rain, drizzle, and cool temperatures in the morning, the outreach effort reached/exceeded our estimate for visitor interactions.

Figure 1. University of Wyoming King Air.

Figure 2. CSWR Doppler On Wheels. 

Figure 3. NSF/NCAR C-130 Cockpit.


Figure 4. EOL-prepared LAOF flier.