Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities (LAOF) Program Information

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS) Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities (LAOF) Program oversees a portfolio of multi-user national facilities that are sponsored by NSF for use by the geosciences research community. Program management resides within AGS in the NCAR and Facilities Section (NFS) which provides a single point for coordination of planning and resources.

The LAOF program enables geoscience research through the provision of specialized facilities, instrumentation, and field support services necessary to carry out the scientific field work associated with investigations of a wide range of geophysical phenomena. The program is actively involved in decisions about the acquisition, operation, maintenance, upgrading and replacement of these facilities based on input from the scientific community. LAOF funding supports both the planning for scientific field programs (e.g., experimental design, operational plans, logistical support) and the actual deployment of NSF-sponsored facilities.


The objectives of the LAOF Program are to provide:

  • Sponsorship of a suite of multi-user observational facilities including instrumentation and platforms for the scientific and educational needs of the geosciences community, within AGS budget and programmatic priorities.
  • Base funding requirements for the sponsored facilities and allocation of deployment pool funding for approved facility deployments.
  • Long-range facility planning and budgeting.
  • Coordination for interagency and international activities involving national facilities.
  • Agency representation on federal committees dealing with facilities, especially for airborne science.


NSF-sponsored facilities are managed and operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and select universities. The Facility Managers at those institutions provide support directly to the science community for development of field campaign proposals as well as receiving formal requests for the use of the NSF-sponsored national facilities. The current points-of-contact in each organization are provided on the LAOF Contact Information webpage.


The table below lists the current LAOF-sponsored facilities and indicates which facilities are currently eligible for deployment pool funding allocations. A description of each of the facilities can be found in the LAOF Digital Guide. In addition, each of the organizations operating and maintaining NSF-sponsored lower atmosphere observing facilities has complete facility descriptions and procedures for requesting the facilities on thir own websites (see below).

Facility Type Facility Facility
Aircraft C-130Q NCAR/RAF  
Gulfstream G-V (HIAPER)
King Air B200T Univ. of Wyo.
Surface and Sounding Systems Integrated Sounding System (ISS) NCAR/EOL
Integrated Surface Flux System (ISFS)
Airborne Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System (AVAPS)
Airborne Remote Sensing Systems Wyoming Cloud Radar (WCR) University of Wyoming
Wyoming Cloud Lidar (WCL)
High Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL)
Airborne Instrumentation HIAPER Airborne Instrumentation Solicitation (HAIS) NCAR/EOL


NSF's Lower Atmosphere Observing facilities are available on a competitive basis to all qualified scientists from universities, NCAR and other govenment agencies requiring facilities and related services to carry out their research objectives. The deployment of the facilities is driven by the scientific merit, capabilities of the facilities to carry out the proposed observations and scheduling of the facility for the requested time. AGS budgets annually for deployment costs associated with these multi-user facilities, but with no specified amount assigned to any facility. Facility requests are reviewed semi-annually by the Observational Facilities Assessment Panel (OFAP). Technical evaluations by the facility managers and feedback from OFAP are taken into account by NSF program officers in deciding whether to support or decline funding for a proposed project. For more details about the facility request process, please refer to the materials in the LAOF Digital Guide and to the webpages entitled “Request Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities.”

Additional information may be obtained from the various facility homepages at: