ESRL Quarterly Newsletter - Spring 2010

Director's Corner

Alexander E. MacDonald, Director ESRL

A nice thing about my career in NOAA is that it has never been boring—it changes rapidly with the times, and today is no exception. As noted in "Climate Service", Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke announced that NOAA would propose a “NOAA Climate Service” (NCS). The new line office would include three out of the four ESRL Divisions (CSD, GMD, PSD), with the remaining division (GSD) to continue in the research line office of NOAA. NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco emphasized that the planned reorganization would be accomplished with two goals in mind; first, to create a climate service, and second, to strengthen NOAA's science.

Rick Spinrad and the OAR (NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research) leadership have been working on plans to assure that the “new” OAR will contribute to the strengthening of science. One idea being discussed is a Chief Scientist office, which would have an Innovation Office as part of its purview. The Innovation Office would be similar to the Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA), which has been a highly innovative force for U.S. technology for many decades. Thus the very strong climate research that would be in the NCS would be complemented by a more innovative OAR—perhaps to be renamed the NOAA Research Service. Of course, NOAA must get approval of its plans from the administration and Congress, which will take time—perhaps six to 18 months before the final decision. In the meantime, I and the leadership of ESRL will be working to assure that this reorganization results in the continued high research productivity and important role that we play within NOAA and the nation. The role of the ESRL Director's Office in the reorganized NOAA is yet to be determined, but we are putting forward some ideas of how we can contribute in the new organization.

The other big change occurring is the retirement of Rick Spinrad, Assistant Administrator of OAR. I have had the privilege of working with all of the OAR AA's for the last 30 years, and it is with some perspective that I appreciate the great job he has done. He will be joining Oregon State University as the Vice President for Research.

Among the important things that Dr. Spinrad brought to OAR were his ideas on a re-vitalized laboratory review program. In the second week of March, ESRL conducted a review of its Physical Sciences program. It was truly outstanding—a source of pride for me and OAR management. My congratulations to Steve Koch, Bill Neff, John Schneider, Sara Summers, and everyone else who contributed to this excellent review. As of right now, ESRL has completed both of its Quadrennial Reviews, the Chemical Sciences review being the first of the new OAR review series, and Physical Sciences the last. The OAR lab reviews are a high standard for all of NOAA, including the new research service and the climate service—it's important that we keep the momentum on organizational reviews as the line structure changes.

There is much to enjoy in this version of the ESRL Quarterly. The lovable pika on the front, or more correctly the important study about its fate in a changing climate, gives an indication of the wide ranging impacts that the NCS will have to confront. NOAA's mission of understanding and predicting climate change is also accentuated by the explanatory research from PSD that is evident in the article about the weird snowstorms in Washington D.C. Innovative ideas such as GSD's role in exploiting GPS and the use of UAS to track seals are other examples.

My closing thoughts for this column concerns the goals we set for ESRL, and the results from the last four and one-half years. One goal was to increase the integration of our research efforts; this was one of the strongest findings from the recent Physical Science review team. A second goal was to increase the financial support for our divisions. The results for this year, FY2010, and the exciting new initiatives that are in the President's budget for next year, FY2011, show that we have also been successful in this effort.

—Alexander MacDonald