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In the American West we often experience nature’s raw forces: winds and wildfires, geothermal and volcanic activity, raging thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Understanding these forces, and how they can affect the resources we depend on, like water and energy, is central to the research we do at the NWSC. We work on ways to help predict earthquakes, protect our water supplies and engineer more efficient wind power systems.
Computational models built upon natural laws and data from observations provide researchers with a powerful, important tool to help understand these complex, interrelated forces. Building, analyzing and running these computer models at the NWSC enables scientists to help address pressing issues involving water and energy that face Wyoming, the West and the world.
Scientists at the University of Wyoming and NCAR use supercomputers to help them model and visualize how wildfires behave in different types of terrain and atmospheric conditions, and how they can generate their own weather. This work provides valuable information on the front lines of wildfires, and can help protect lives and property.
The American West is rich in energy resources, including renewable sources like wind and solar power. Researchers at the University of Wyoming are studying how to meet energy needs efficiently and responsibly. They are also exploring ways to capture and remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, which could help to reduce the effects of burning fossil fuels.
There is nothing more important on Earth than water—every living thing needs water to survive. University of Wyoming researchers use field experiments to develop computational models, so they can understand how precipitation (snow and rain) goes into flowing rivers, replenishing underground water sources and moistening soil, and how each of these responds to environmental changes.
The NWSC is the result of a partnership between University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the State of Wyoming, the University of Wyoming, Cheyenne LEADS, Wyoming Business Council, Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power Company. The NWSC is operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation.
Computer models work a little like following a recipe. For example, we take information—or data—about current weather conditions. Next, we add energy from the Sun, and we stir in the math that explains how the Sun’s energy causes the weather to change over time. The result is a model, and it can be used to predict what the weather will do next. This is known as a forecast.