Public Release: 

'Scientific American 50' recognizes NCAR scientists

National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

BOULDER--Scientific American magazine has placed two National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientists on this year's Scientific American 50 list. The list, which recognizes outstanding acts of leadership in technology, names project scientists Larry Cornman and Robert Sharman as research leaders in aerospace.

The list appears in the magazine's December issue, which will arrive at newsstands on November 25. Along with outside advisers, the editorial board of Scientific American selected the year's strongest leaders in agriculture, communications, computing, defense, energy, the environment, and more.

With the help of two teams from NCAR's Research Applications Program, Cornman and Sharman developed a software package called the NCAR Efficient Spectral Processing Algorithm (NESPA) to help pilots navigate storms without encountering air turbulence. NESPA is a quality-control and turbulence prediction method used with airborne Doppler radars like those on commercial airlines. NESPA will help pilots decide which regions are safe to fly though, particularly in dryer areas that pilots assume are safe but may be turbulent.

Last summer, scientists tested NESPA on a NASA B-757 aircraft as it flew through numerous thunderstorms. "We caught over 80% of the turbulence encounters, with very few false detections," Cornman said. "We were pleasantly surprised at the algorithm's performance. It's always satisfying to see theoretical efforts come alive in the real world."

NASA funded the NESPA research. NCAR's primary sponsor is the National Science Foundation.

Cornman credited the two NCAR teams for the success of NESPA's development. Beth Chorbajian, Shel Gerding, Greg Meymaris, and John Williams helped him develop the algorithms. Rod Frehlich, Teddie Keller, and Todd Lane helped Sharman conduct cloud-scale turbulence modeling used in radar simulations.

In June 2003, NESPA's development team won a NASA Turning Goals Into Reality award for the project.


On the Web: For more background on NESPA, see

For information on Scientific American, see

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