With funds from the National Science Foundation, Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research was built in 1963 near the summit of 10,783-ft South Baldy Peak to provide a base for the study of cloud processes that produce lightning, hail, and rain. The need for the laboratory arose following the pioneering research into thunderstorms over New Mexico by E. J. Workman that began in the 1930s. During his tenure as President of New Mexico School of Mines (now New Mexico Tech) he was joined by other scientists including Nobel Laureate Dr. Irving Langmuir, in 1947, in whose honor the laboratory is named. These and other early studies in the nearby Plains of San Agustin and the San Mateo Mountains led to the building of Langmuir Lab in the Magdalena Mountains.
The Magdalena Mountains offer favorable conditions for the study of storms because many occur there during the summer, and often the storms are isolated, stationary, and relatively small.
Public Law 96-550, passed by Congress in 1980, established 31,000 acres within the Cibola National Forest as the Langmuir Research Site in order to encourage scientific studies in atmospheric processes and astronomic events. Langmuir Laboratory is operated under a Special Use Permit issued on 03/12/92 by the U.S. Forest Service, and an annual Operation and Maintenance Plan jointly prepared by the Magdalena District Ranger and Langmuir Laboratory.