The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO is a large modern building that sits above the city. Its appearance is reminiscent of the Indian cliff dwellers in Mesa Verde - but much larger. The pinkish sandstone color also provides a color that is similar to the background found in the mountains.
The Center is designed to enable about 500 scientists to study various aspects of weather - including the greenhouse effect, windshear, depletion of the ozone layer, and just about anything that impacts the lives of people and climate on the earth. Many of their tools are put on display and can be seen in a tour of the facility.
The tours of the NCAR facility are free. They will enable visitors to see why studying the atmosphere and its effects are so important. They will also have opportunity to see what kind of research projects are currently underway, understand some of the issues concerning atmospheric chemistry, and understand how severe weather develops and what it does.
Exhibits in the Visitor's Center have the goal of promoting discovery, empowering learners, and providing visitors with a hands-on experience that will encourage future learning and exploration of atmospheric science. The Climate Discovery exhibit provides three interactive and multimedia exhibits that show how the earth's climates have changed. It also reveals how this can be learned through the study of rock, ice, trees, and other methods.
Other exhibits include some of the technology that is used to discover and understand what is being seen today. This includes supercomputers, science videos that show information about NCAR, art exhibits, and scientific visualization tools. A traveling photographic exhibit is also currently at the Center. Three exhibits called Climate Past, Climate Now and Climate Future, reveals various models of the climate and what may be expected in the future.
Part of the tour also includes the 3D Visualization Laboratory. This exhibit uses a state-of-the-art display that uses the supercomputer and projects present natural phenomena such as temperatures, hurricanes, circulation, and much more on to a very wide monitor.
There are several different types of tours available. Individuals or families can come and go on a self-guided tour at any time the doors are open. Noon Hour Tours take place on 363 days a year, and last about one hour. No reservations are needed. The Cell Phone Audio Tour provides visitors with young children, ages four to twelve, an opportunity to hear informative messages at various stations along the tour with a cell phone. Different age people can dial different numbers to get age appropriate messages. Groups can also come but must schedule it in advance.
The Center also has a Cafeteria that offers a wide selection of foods. It is open for breakfast and lunch. The Cafeteria is decorated with art from local artists, and guests can eat with a terrific view overlooking the city. Only cash will be accepted.
Visitors to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO will also want to take a walk along the Walter Orr Roberts Weather Trail. This 0.4 mile long trail features eleven different viewpoints, or interpretive trail, where each one deals with some aspect of weather and climate.
The Center is open seven days a week. On weekdays, it is open between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM, and on weekends, guests can come between the hours of 9 AM and 4 PM. Holidays follow the weekend schedule.