Science never solves a problem without creating ten more

“Science never solves a problem without creating ten more” – George Bernard Shaw

I’m more than half way through my placement at NOAA Boulder. It’s going really too fast.  I am enjoying myself, especially having the freedom to approach work and discover things the way I see fit. It’s a good detox from the encroaching institutionalisation of the day-job.

I’m under no-illusions however. I know that the grass isn’t greener on this side, necessarily. If I stayed for longer than two months, no doubt the novelisation would wear off and I would have to join the pecking-order, likely near the very bottom. There are stresses and strains here as there are in any establishment. What this lab and schools seem to have in common though is that the pretty much everyone believes in what they are doing, and genuinely are working for the greater good. Very likely the longer I would stay at NOAA Boulder the more and more parallels I can draw between being an employee or affiliate there and front-line teaching. And although I envy the people who work here, I am perhaps to-be-envied myself that I will just be upping sticks and moving on.

Ever more important, then, that I repay the kindness, friendliness and patience the staff here have in me with as many positive contributions as I can give…

“Let me show you around…”

So while my blog entries recently appear to all be about the ‘AirCore’, I have been busy in other ways – which is why my AirCore work has taken so long. I’ve been giving regular talks for tours about the Global Monitoring Division, and as of yesterday I have had an audience of every age group! I’ve never been afraid of stepping outside of my comfort zone, but giving a talk to a 25 2nd graders (Year 3s) was certainly a challenge. I gave out stickers for good responses/questions and had them walking like penguins between the ice-core cabinet and the model AirCore & glass-flask case…

So that’s every age-group from elementary, middle, high-school, college (university) to retirees. And if you count a short visit by my family, then check ‘pre-school’ off that list too!

More than just talk

The GMD are stepping up their intra- and inter- communications regarding the work that they are doing. So far I think I’ve made it sound like the GMD is a single department within the Earth Systems Research Labs, but that’s not entirely accurate. It is perhaps more accurate to say it’s a collection of groups (6 actually), and as a whole they have allocated resources in the labs. They do collaborate with other departments in the building often. So outreach is not just for the public or schools, it’s for other scientists, engineers, technicians etc both within and beyond.

Members of the GMD meet for their bi-weekly Tuesday morning meeting. Important developments are communicated. In this meeting, Kirk Thoning talks about his work which attempts to account for temporal and spacial gaps in some monitoring data.

Also exceptionally important is that they do communicate with each other about what they are doing and the merits of their work. The fortnightly Tuesday morning meetings are now been supplemented with a weekly/bi-weekly (depending on the calendar) ‘quick talks’. The aim is for 2 or 3 people to give a 15-20 minute talk about the work they are doing with some Q&A time. The talks take place not in the GMD conference room, but the ‘lecture hall’ for the whole building. The idea is to encourage as many people, not just in the GMD to participate. I’m not sure if the talks are advertised to the public, but since NOAA Boulder is a government building which is transparent to the public (after a security check!) then I’m sure they could be attended by those who don’t work at the labs.

This first showing looked at CCG Global Monitoring: Trends and Distributions of Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases and Related Tracers by Ed Dlugokencky and Global monitoring of halocarbons and other gases within the HATS group by Steve Montzka. In the 20 minutes they had each, both showed the successes and challenges the research experienced, but clearly stated the national and global importance of the work. NOAA is a major global contributor when it comes to global monitoring of gases. Yes, other institutions are doing their bit, but none to the level of depth, quality and scope of NOAA. They are a major player. At the end of the talks I was left thinking whether the world could continue this scientific research and monitoring to the level and urgency we need without NOAA… Well, from what I have seen, read and heard with my own senses over the last 6 weeks, I’m tending to say ‘no’.

With a major review of the GMD (actually I think of all of NOAA) coming in 2018, they want to get a head-start in communicating the importance of their work. This premier talk had good attendence, but at the moment they are preaching to the converted. We all know that the research being conducted is of major importance not just to the USA, but globally. So I wish them the very best of wishes and success in ensuring those who need convincing will be.

Fun at the fair

Last Saturday was an annual NCAR Super Science Day. My friend Carolyn and I took our kids (well, Theo came, the baby stayed home with the wife!). It was hectic, but lots of fun. Although the kids didn’t really enjoy the loud hissing noise when filling the weather balloon up! The launch itself made up for that.

Friends in high places

Last Sunday we had the joy of seeing some close family friends that we hadn’t seen since my wife and I did a cross-continental round trip of the USA in 2010. Their house was on the Higher Mountain Institute (HMI) campus in Leadville, CO. The scenery was beautiful.

The grounds of HMI in Leadville, CO. Notice the large solar array on the right.

Do explore the Higher Mountain Institute (HMI) website – it is very interesting reading. If I could work out a way to volunteer with them this year then I would definitely do so!

Crunch time…

Have to dash – I actually was writing this while making a roast dinner, and now it’s crunch time! Yum yum! 🙂

I can’t claim credit for the ‘American’ addition to the roast, which was my wife’s delicious salad!

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