August 20, 2013 – Drive to Golden, CO and Tour of NOAA Facility

After one last look at Long Mountain, where an experienced 33-year old climber fell to his death two days ago,

we got an early start for a relatively short but partly mountainous and winding road

 from Estes Park, through Boulder, to Golden Colorado.  Enroute, there were a few “interesting” roadside sights.

Literally a hundred or more bikers

A bus which looks like it came right out of “Forest Gump”

Scenic farms backing up to the lower foothills of the Rockies

Other homes which look strangely out-of-place

Ubiquitous John Deere Farm equipment

Old steam vehicle

 and

A couple just starting out on a life together

After an early check-in at our campground, we retraced 20+ miles of our drive back to Boulder where we had reservations for a tour of NOAA’s largest research facility where over 1,000 people work around the clock 24/7/365.

Before reaching the NOAA building, we had to provide picture identification and each of our three cars passing through the security gates were inspected.  We found ironic the Visitor/Security Center Building’s number designation …

Particularly in light of the recent acknowledgement that Area 51 actually existed; one of our government’s worst kept secrets.

Our first tour stop was the Gift Shop

where everyone, us included, came away with some clothing or other NOAA tokens.

From there we entered Science On a Sphere, where a suspended globe display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe. 

 

Researchers at NOAA developed Science On a Sphere as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth System science to people of all ages. Using four cameras, animated images of atmospheric storms, climate change, ocean temperature, plate tectonics, surface and deep ocean currents, surface and upper wind patterns, polar ice coverages and global vegetation,  can be shown on the sphere, which is used to explain what are sometimes complex environmental processes, in a way that is simultaneously intuitive and captivating. It was even more amazing as the tour guide was able to “rotate” the axis of the globe from the vertical to the horizontal … and at no time was there any apparent distortion of the images on the globe.

We went by the regional forecasting center (I think I’d go nuts sitting before up to half dozen computer screens for ten hour shifts … and, in fact, one of the forecasters went through an entire bag of Lay’s Potato Chips while we were watching); one of 28 across the nation,

the Space Weather Forecasting Center (which primarily monitors activity on the sun),

a map of the sites around the globe where surface atmospheric testing is done on a weekly basis,

Each dot represents a site from which samples are taken every Wednesday … most land locations but some taken at sea on ships with regular routes.

 a surface atmospheric testing kit,

a Dobson Ozone Spectrophotometer,

A chart showing the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere since 800,000 BCE (I have to admit it is compelling),

And some incredibly fascinating charts and pictures along all of the building’s corridors, including what is believed the first photograph of a tornado taken on August 28, 1884 twenty-two miles southwest of Howard, South Dakota.

Other offices where NOAA provides services include the Aviation Weather Service, Climate Prediction Center, Environmental Modeling Center, National Hurricane Center, Ocean Prediction Center and Storm Prediction Center.

After leaving NOAA, Debbie and some of the “gals” went to the Pearl Mall in downtown Boulder … where their purchases included a Margarita, fried kale and Häagen-Dazs ice cream!

I came back to our campground, ran a couple of errands and got our Jeep a good bath (it was thick with dust and dirt from our time in Estes Park).

By early evening we were all back and got together outside our motor home for wine, hor d’ouvres and good friendship time.

 

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