I’m back from my holiday travel adventures – with a bad cold and happy memories. I visited my granddaughter, Ada, in Eau Claire Wisconsin for Christmas and found plenty of ice and snow, then spent several days with my long-time friend and fellow writer Sara Sheldon in Boulder Colorado.
Sara’s livingroom window offered the view of an intriguing building on a bluff above the city. I studied it at various times of day, the morning light brought a stiff brown look to what appeared to be a stylized version of ancient Native American cliff dwellings, afternoon light cast a rosy glow over what might pass for an ancient fortress.
Up close, NCAR, designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, is a stunningly beautiful building filled with laboratories, offices and public displays explaining the mysteries of the atmosphere that surrounds us. But it’s more than that. It’s a portal to understanding in the grandest sense and I felt lucky to be there on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve—practically alone, the wind howling at nearly 100 mph off the Flatirons.
NCAR is part of a global network of scientists piecing together the physical principles that define the behavior of the atmosphere—storms, winds, rain and floods, acid levels in the oceans and climate change. They’re working on the “why”of these problems, but also the answers to “so what?”
But, I was delighted to learn why the sky is blue and what causes the fierce Chinook winds in the Rockie Mountains. I was glad to see that there are smart people looking at what snow and drought mean in a larger context, that we have a gang of highly skilled weather watchdogs looking deep into the oceans and far out into space to understand the atmosphere we live in.