Summary of FY2002 Budget Request to Congress - National Science Foundation


The FY 2002 Budget Request for the Atmospheric Sciences Subactivity is $186.50 million, a decrease of $1.95 million, or 1.0 percent, below the FY 2001 Current Plan of $188.45 million.

Millions of Dollars

   FY 2000 Actual FY 2001
Current Plan
FY 2002 Request Change
Amount Percent
Atmospheric Sciences Research Support
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Total, ATM

Totals may not add due to rounding

Research in the Atmospheric Sciences Subactivity (ATM) furthers our understanding of weather, climate, and the solar-terrestrial system by expanding the fundamental knowledge of the composition and dynamics of Earth's atmosphere and geospace environment. NSF provides over 45 percent of the total federal support for basic research in atmospheric sciences at academic institutions. Almost 40 percent of the funds for ATM support the operation and maintenance of large, complex facilities required for research in the atmospheric and solar-terrestrial sciences. These facilities are shared by the atmospheric science community for fundamental research by individuals and groups of investigators participating in national and international scientific field programs and experiments.

Recent research supported by NSF has demonstrated that there is a naturally occurring mode of atmospheric variability in the northern high latitudes. It resembles the North Atlantic Oscillation in many respects, but its primary center of action covers more of the Arctic. Coupled to strong fluctuations in the stratosphere on the intraseasonal, interannual, and interdecadal time scales, the Arctic Oscillation (AO) can be interpreted as the surface signature of modulations in the strength of the polar vortex aloft. The research offers a framework for explaining recent trends in winter/springtime surface air temperature, sea-level pressure, geopotential heights and ozone concentrations. The analysis has also been extended to the Antarctic. This work has received significant attention and citation by the climate research community, particularly the polar research community. The robust new mode of variability, second to ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation), has given fresh insights into climate variability and long-term trends.

Recent observations by two different remote sensing techniques - the Starfire lidar in New Mexico and the Arecibo incoherent scatter (ISR) radar in Puerto Rico - demonstrate the existence of sharp gradients of temperatures and winds in the mesosphere region near 90 km. Both sets of temperature and wind observations show gradients that are believed to arise from the breaking of gravity waves as they interact with the atmospheric tidal structure dominated by the semi-diurnal tide. The simultaneous existence of these sharp gradients implies that the atmosphere can be highly turbulent over a region of 3 to 5 km within the mesopause region, and also that this layer of turbulence descends with the phase speed of the tidal structure. This work lays the foundation for improved understanding of other mesospheric phenomena. Such results are seen only when the remote sensing technique has the capability of making precise measurements with high temporal and spatial resolutions. Hence, the large apertures of the Starfire optical telescope (3.5 m) and the Arecibo radio telescope (300 m) were crucial to this discovery.

The FY 2002 Budget Request includes $115.87 million for Atmospheric Sciences Research Support, which provides funding for individual and group research projects in physical meteorology, large-scale dynamic meteorology, experimental meteorology, climate dynamics, atmospheric chemistry, aeronomy, magnetospheric physics and solar-terrestrial relations. Research studies develop the scientific basis for understanding the dynamic and physical behavior of climate and weather on all scales, the natural global chemical cycles of gases and particles in Earth's atmosphere, the composition, energetics, and particularly the dynamics of the coupled upper atmospheric system, and the sun as it relates to Earth's upper atmosphere and space environment. Support is also provided for lower atmospheric facilities at several universities and for upper atmospheric observatories in Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Greenland and Peru that are operated by U.S. universities and research institutions. Also included is support for Unidata, a national program to help universities use computing technology and atmospheric data for teaching and research. Highlights for FY 2002 include:

  • continued examination of important biogeochemical cycles including emphasis on understanding the sources, sinks and processes which control the atmospheric abundance and distribution of carbon, water and other nutrient elements;

  • development of improved computer systems and numerical models, smart instrumentation, and collaboratories which will allow new discoveries, greater access to atmospheric data, and improved understanding of the atmospheric environment which will be supported as part of the ITR initiative;

  • support for new environmental modeling that employ data assimilation and innovative mathematic and statistical techniques to improve predictions of fundamental atmospheric and Earth system processes; and

  • continued support of the U.S. Weather Research Program, the National Space Weather Program, disciplinary research and cooperative international science programs.

FY 2002 support for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) totals $70.63 million. During FY 2002 NCAR will focus on: 1) research in the atmospheric and related sciences, including climate system modeling and the operation of the computation facilities for the Climate Simulation Laboratory; 2) the U.S. Weather Research Program and the National Space Weather Program, which aim to achieve a better understanding and improved predictive capability of costly and disruptive storms on Earth and in space; and 3) continued support and development of new and improved observational and computational capabilities.

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