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up from beneath the sea floor by the Glomar Challenger. For ocean research the Navy has refurbished the deep submersible Alvin and the
Foundation has contributed to some modernization of the Alvin's mother
ship, Lulu. There is a whole family of new precise measuring devices
for trace materials in the sea and in the atmosphere. Instruments provide
the cutting edge of the AAEO research program and much of our budget
with you some examples of recent results of our programs.
First, in astronomy. The Very Large Array, located a few miles west of Socorro, New Mexico, is nearing completion. I am sure that without the
support of this Committee, we would never have been able to build it. The
VLA is in many respects the largest radio telescope in the world.
of the VLA antennas have been accepted by the observatory. More than
two-thirds of these are in operational use and all of them will be operating by early next calendar year. With those that are operating, we are
receiving excellent data, making radio images whose accuracy compares very well with the best optical images that can be obtained. This major facility
will be completed on schedule and within its design budget, even though the schedule and budget were set in 1973. The VLA was the only major new NSF
start in astronomy during the period 1973-1981. The VLA telescope is already
a very popular instrument; it is oversubscribed by users.
are looking deeper and deeper into space, mapping more distant galaxies and
qua sars. The next several years should see several new discoveries advance
NSF-supported researchers are using the 1000-foot diameter radio
telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico to verify the existence of gravitational waves, a phenomenon that is predicted by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.
Others are searching for indirect evidence of black holes, using the
Most of you are aware, I believe, that we are in a period of maximum
solar activity, in the peak of the normal eleven year solar cycle. The Sun's activity is expected to reach its maximum early this calendar year. The special research efforts associated with the Solar Maximum Year will continue until February 1981. Among the important matters that concern my Directorate are weather and climate, and one of the major factors in
de termining climate is solar activity. The study of the Sun and solar
effects are interdisciplinary matters involving several of our research
As the budget indicates, a major fraction of astronomy research dollars goes for the operation of the National Astronomy Centers. These centers cannot be thought of independently from university research in astronomy. Large, unique telescopes at these centers were built and instrumented
for the use of all the nation's astronomers.
In fact, 85% of the centers' users
are university astronomers.
As a result it is clear that the centers are
essential to a viable university astronomy program, especially in the
smaller schools that cannot afford to build and maintain large astronomical
instruments. It is also important to note that the university astronomy community uses the centers' instruments and facilities on a competitive
basis without charge.
In the meteorology area some exciting and informative work is being
carried out with a variety of radar systems. Triple Doppler radar networks
(to measure in-cloud winds and water characteristics) and LDAR (Lightning
Detection and Ranging) to measure the location of electrical discharges are
providing for the first time three-dimensional characterizations of
thunderstorms in sufficient time and space detail to resolve the inter
dependence of thunderstorm dynamics, microphysics, and electrification.
Preliminary data analysis suggests researchers are on the threshold of
important new information about thunderstorm mechanisms. The NSF, in
cooperation with other agencies and with Congressional support, plays a major role in supporting the development of new instrumentation, cooperative, multi-group field programs, and data analysis in this important
area of basic research.
The large VHF radar systems have the potential to measure wind vectors,
wave motions, and turbulence at altitudes from 1 to 100 km on an essentially continuous basis. These systems provide extremely fine time resolution of winds through the troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere. Possible interconnections between terrestrial weather and solar activity, and applied topics such as the dispersion of pollutants to the upper atmosphere will be
addressed with a much better chance for success if the promise of this
technique bears fruit. The technique could form the basis of an operational network to gather wind data at a much higher frequency than practical with existing instruments. The NSF is providing funds for constructing the
prototype system near Chatanika, Alaska; NOAA is providing the manpower.
A qualitatively new capability has been made available to measure
auroral plasma velocities and electric fields, with time continuity and
simultaneity over a broad latitude span. This has been accomplished by
the addition of a 150-foot diameter fully steerable antenna to the
Millstone Hill radar, Westford, Massachusetts.
Data collected to date
with this newly upgraded facility are already extending the understanding
of both solar control and atmospheric effects of these circulation patterns.
A group of Colorado State University scientists under the direction of Dr. Thomas vonder Haar have developed an extremely fast and efficient way to process very large amounts of cloud and radiation data observed by
geosynchronous satellites orbiting the earth. At the present time, data on solar energy received by the earth and that portion of it that is
reradiated back to space is transmitted by two geostationary satellites,
but these data must be stored for future analysis because present computers
cannot process the data fast enough to permit "real time" analysis. The
new technique enables the data to be processed in batches, a method so efficient that the computer can handle the data as fast as they are received from the satellites. The technique thus allows for the first time, the
monitoring of inbound and outbound radiation and the computing of net radiation budget on a continuous 24-hour basis. The locations of prevailing winds and currents, the intensity and tracks of storms, and the occasional shifting of the circulation patterns, producing anoma lous weather and climate, all depend upon the geographical and temporal distribution of incoming and outgoing radiant energy. A precise knowledge of the radiant energy budget and its changes is an essential ingredient of numerical models of climate
and climatic change.
As events of this past summer have again shown, hurricanes are among
the most destructive weather phenomena experienced in this country.
Professor William Gray of Colorado State University has been examining the detailed structure of "cloud clusters"--intense tropical storm regions of organized, deep vertically developing systems using the NCAR Cray I
One of the enigmas in hurricane forecasting is the fact that cloud clusters occur frequently, but only relatively few develop into hurricanes.
Professor Gray has concluded that the strongest influence on hurricane
development is the rotational structure of the tropical environment in
which the cluster is moving. Large-scale rotation is a quantity that is
routinely forecast in numerical models with acceptable skill. Therefore,
Gray's finding has the potential of improving the capability of predicting
Again in the area of atmospheric sciences research there is a melding
between individual researchers and major research facilities, the radars, the LDAR, and the computer. In budgeting for these efforts we try to
think of the people and the centers as a system for problem solving.
Activity in the area of ocean sciences is providing insights into some
very fundamental processes of ocean physics and geophysics. Last year the
refurbished deep submersible Alvin was deployed, along with the mother ship,
Lulu, to the East Pacific Rise, off the west coast of Mexico. On one of the
early dives, a field of natural pipes, or hydrothermal vents, jutting upward from the sea floor was observed. Hot dark plumes of liquid were flowing at
10 meters per second from beneath the bottom into the surrounding colder
water. As the hot jets mixed with the bottom water the dissolved materials
were precipitated onto the sea floor as sulphides of iron, copper, zinc, and
The temperatures measured at the vent openings were as high as
350°C. The precipitation mechanism appears possibly to be the funadmental
process of forming metal sulphide ores.
The rich mineral deposits serve as
the basic food for a wide variety of marine animals, some previously unknown to science, that dwell in great profusion near the vents, living by the release
of chemical energy rather than by using the products of photosynthesis.
The Ocean Sciences Division also is supporting the Sea-Air Exchange Project (SEAREX) in the vicinity of Eniwetok Atoll in the Central Pacific.