The National Center for Atmospheric Research is a working laboratory sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Its mission is to study climate and the Earth’s atmosphere and share what it learns in a museum. This facility in a beautiful setting is mentioned in the official Denver Visitors Guide as one of the best free things to do in the area. It’s #4 and described as a weather-themed museum. That it is.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is in the Rocky Mountain foothills above the dynamic city of Boulder near the Flatirons. Boulder, 27 miles northwest of Denver, is the home of the major campus of the University of Colorado. Those who take public transportation from Denver’s Union Station will be downtown when they arrive in Boulder and will need some way to get to Table Mesa Drive and NCAR.
The setting was very important to its designer, the renowned I. M. Pei, who was born in China and is now 101 years old. Pei, whose most familiar design is probably the Louvre pyramid, always planned for NCAR to be here and called the road up to it his “Grand Gesture”. The building was described as futuristic when it opened in the 1960s and is still impressive.
This museum about climate and weather is geared to a young audience so everything is easy to understand, However, a lot of it is frightening. It’s sponsors view climate change as well underway and clearly state that we need to reduce and stabilize the amount of carbon in our atmosphere RIGHT NOW with renewable energy, carbon capture, etc. It has charts, photos, and posted info meant to scare. For example, “High in the Andes Mountains, glaciers are retreating rapidly and may be largely gone by midcentury”. One photo shows how the Arctic village of Kivalina is dealing with a rising ocean.
The fun is in the weather section with a cloud creating bowl the most popular exhibit with children. I also loved seeing the enormous hail ball on the back of a Honda that reminded me of the freak storm that formed in Antartica and damaged the town of Broken Hill, Australia, last November. If our weather that Sunday had been better, Ruth, Tom, and I would have taken the Walter Orr Roberts Weather Trail, the only interpretative hike in North America devoted to weather.
NCAR is reason enough to go to Boulder, but we also really enjoyed the busy Pearl Street Mall.