Pushing the Boundary (Layer)

An Initiative for Boundary-Layer Research in the National Weather Center Community

A white paper developed by Dr. Elizabeth Smith (NSSL), Tyler Bell (SoM/CIMMS/NSSL), Dr. Jeremy Gibbs (NSSL)


The institutions that comprise the National Weather Center (NWC) community have been historically recognized as prominent leaders in severe weather research, radar meteorology, and mesoscale to storm scale prediction. As the scientific landscape evolves, so does the focus and strength of research institutions like ours. At its inception, the NWC became a model for how research and collaboration can lead to societal impacts. Leveraging this strength, the NWC community is poised to lead a new effort in boundary-layer meteorology on national and international levels.

State of Boundary Layer Research in the NWC community

Several institutes and collaborative groups within the NWC community have already contributed important work in boundary-layer and boundary-layer-related research areas. For example, collaborative efforts between the University of Oklahoma (OU) School of Meteorology (SoM) and the National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) have resulted in the development of two state-of-the-art mobile boundary layer profiling systems (CLAMPS). However, there are key areas where renewed focus and investment would elevate the NWC community to international leaders in boundary-layer research. One such area is expanding the collaboration and communication between modeling and observing communities in the NWC. Additionally, engineering support for operating and maintaining instrumentation is needed.

Relevant Science Goals

We separated science goals into short, medium, and long-term time horizons based on compiled and interpreted results from a community survey and a series of focus groups. These goals, all centered around boundary-layer science, span a range of applications and spatiotemporal scales.

Looking to the future

Training and recruitment of a new generation of scientists interested in boundary-layer research is essential for this initiative to be successful. Currently, the pool of well-trained and interested students and early-career scientists is severely constrained. This shortage can be addressed by community building within and outside of the NWC, such as through the Boundary Layer Integrated Sensing and Simulation (BLISS) group. This initiative also requires a number of additional resources (e.g. computing, engineering support) and a method to track and quantify its progress.

  1. Continue to support and expand the observations capabilities of the NWC community. Support existing and initiate new collaborations across institutions, agencies, and labs — both internally and externally.
  2. Review hiring and recruitment plans to make sure that we invest in and develop new talent to expand scientific expertise and to build a diverse and inclusive research environment.
  3. Improve the “branding” of boundary-layer science in the NWC and broader communities.
  4. Get more researchers working with and familiarized with novel observation and modeling tools.
  5. Expand collaboration and develop genuine overlap between modeling and observing teams.
  6. Find ways to exchange knowledge and develop new expertise, both in training and among established scientists (e.g., summer school).


A seminar was delivered in the BUL seminar introducing this initiative. A recording can be viewed here.

The public version of the white paper is available here.

If you are interested in the more detailed internal version (NWC tenants only), please contact Elizabeth Smith at elizabeth.smith@noaa.gov.