5
Summary Observations and Recommendations

SCIENTIFIC RATIONALE AND SCIENCE QUESTIONS

Observation:

The earth sciences have rapidly moved toward the study of “geosystems”—complex systems involving many scientific disciplines, well expressed in natural laboratories where the processes can be studied in detail. The EarthScope initiative is a response from the scientific community to the need to explore the North American continent beneath the United States as a solid-earth dynamic geosystem and to provide the foundation for increased understanding of its structure and the processes that shape it. The technology for such a program and the capacity to manage the large amount of data accumulated by it are proven and in place. This is therefore the right time to undertake a full exploration of the nature of the North American continental crust and its underlying mantle, as a critical requirement for understanding the nature of the earth on which we live and how society needs to manage and adapt to its rhythms and processes.

Recommendation:

The committee strongly endorses the integrated approach to the investigation of the lithosphere and mantle underlying the United States proposed in the EarthScope initiative, including its four components: USArray, PBO, SAFOD, and InSAR. The committee concludes that the scientific rational for EarthScope is sound, that



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Review of Earthscope Integrated Science 5 Summary Observations and Recommendations SCIENTIFIC RATIONALE AND SCIENCE QUESTIONS Observation: The earth sciences have rapidly moved toward the study of “geosystems”—complex systems involving many scientific disciplines, well expressed in natural laboratories where the processes can be studied in detail. The EarthScope initiative is a response from the scientific community to the need to explore the North American continent beneath the United States as a solid-earth dynamic geosystem and to provide the foundation for increased understanding of its structure and the processes that shape it. The technology for such a program and the capacity to manage the large amount of data accumulated by it are proven and in place. This is therefore the right time to undertake a full exploration of the nature of the North American continental crust and its underlying mantle, as a critical requirement for understanding the nature of the earth on which we live and how society needs to manage and adapt to its rhythms and processes. Recommendation: The committee strongly endorses the integrated approach to the investigation of the lithosphere and mantle underlying the United States proposed in the EarthScope initiative, including its four components: USArray, PBO, SAFOD, and InSAR. The committee concludes that the scientific rational for EarthScope is sound, that

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Review of Earthscope Integrated Science the scientific questions to be addressed are of significant importance, and that no necessary components have been omitted. The committee recommends that all four components be implemented as rapidly as possible. Observation: Answering the key questions posed for the EarthScope science initiative will require the participation of scientists from across all the disciplinary programs of NSF’s Geosciences Directorate. Fully exploiting the opportunities afforded by the new data collected in EarthScope not only will depend upon the analysis of geophysical data, but will require new geological mapping, new geochemical and geochronological studies, and new activities in a host of other disciplines. The basic science needs associated with the Earthscope facilities have been outlined effectively by the EarthScope Working Group in the draft EarthScope Project Plan, July 2001. However, for its success, it is critical that the NSF make a long-term commitment to fund this science, and to be prepared to augment these funds as the program evolves. The disciplinary programs in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) that support such science currently can fund only a fraction (10– 40 percent, depending on the program) of the proposals received, and many deserving projects cannot be funded. The science challenges presented by EarthScope provide an exciting opportunity for earth scientists that will require both collaborative large-scale projects and individual investigator projects. It is likely that these will stress the existing budgets available to EAR. Recommendation: The NSF should ensure that EarthScope’s scientific potential is effectively realized and capitalized upon by continuing its support for the disciplinary and interdisciplinary programs within NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) that form the scientific foundation of the project.

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Review of Earthscope Integrated Science Observation: In recent years, InSAR has made spectacular contributions to imaging parts of the earthquake cycle and revealing the motion of magma at depth beneath volcanoes, and the committee believes that InSAR must be perceived as an integral part of EarthScope. With its unique ability to measure the continuity of strain signals over large areas, InSAR represents a very dramatic enhancement of EarthScope’s ability to monitor the behavior of the solid earth. It greatly improves any interpretation of signals that might first be detected by seismology or GPS, and will significantly improve the chances of detecting premonitory signals from volcanoes and earthquake faults. Of all the components of EarthScope, it is the most likely to first detect natural phenomena that require closer attention from the other components of the project. It does not replace seismology or GPS, as each component brings its own unique capabilities, but all four together are far more powerful than any one component on its own; a clear example of where the ability of the whole greatly exceeds that of its individual parts. This capability greatly increases the probability that unexpected events (e.g., premonitory motion of a volcano, motion on an unknown blind [hidden] fault) will be detected. Recommendation: The committee concludes that InSAR is an integral part of the EarthScope vision that will greatly enhance the effectiveness of the project, and it should not be viewed merely as a desirable add-on to the project. The committee urges NSF and NASA to collaborate to realize this goal at the earliest opportunity, so as to make InSAR capability a reality during the lifetime of the other EarthScope components. IMPLEMENTATION AND MANAGEMENT Observations: The overall scientific vision of EarthScope is a four-dimensional view of the North American continent beneath the United States, to be

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Review of Earthscope Integrated Science achieved by integrating a variety of data from four observational techniques. This vision recognizes that for addressing a wide range of problems in lithosphere dynamics and evolution, these datasets are more powerful when integrated than when considered separately. Planning for EarthScope is understandably focused at present on the major effort needed to install equipment and bring observational data on line. In parallel with this effort, it is important that planning for the science program and its management be developed. EarthScope will need a mechanism to ensure integration, coordination, and synthesis of interdisciplinary studies carried out by individual investigators. Since scientific research proposals using EarthScope-derived data will be subject to the normal NSF peer review process, there will need to be a mechanism for EarthScope management to provide advice to NSF on programmatic funding priorities. Recommendation: The committee recommends that EarthScope look beyond the development of the facility to the operational phase of the scientific program, and develop a strategic science plan to accomplish its long-term scientific goals. Such a plan should include a scientific advisory structure encompassing all elements of EarthScope and all appropriate branches of the earth sciences to provide oversight and advice on the scientific directions of the program, and to coordinate its scientific activities. It should also incorporate a mechanism for providing advice to NSF regarding EarthScope programmatic funding priorities. The advisory structure should also include liaisons to other programs that are either complementary or will help fulfill the broader EarthScope vision of understanding the structure and evolution of the North American continent. EarthScope will result in observations that are certain to reveal new and unexpected events and targets. Some of these unforeseen features will require rapid response, such as signals that may be related to increased earthquake or volcanic activity. This prospect will pose a different integration and management challenge: how to coordinate and direct the flexible components of EarthScope to address new targets that emerge during the course of the program. A mechanism needs to be in place to meet this challenge.

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Review of Earthscope Integrated Science Recommendation: The committee urges EarthScope management to establish a mechanism that would rapidly and effectively direct appropriate equipment and expertise toward any unexpected phenomena that may be revealed during its implementation. EDUCATION, OUTREACH, AND COMMUNICATION Observation: EarthScope provides a unique opportunity to excite and involve the general public, students, and the earth science community in understanding the earth on which they live. The committee believes that there is a growing need for such knowledge that the EarthScope project is well positioned to satisfy. Another key feature of EarthScope that makes education and outreach so significant is that it will involve physical, visible, and tangible installations that will be sited within or close to local communities across the nation. By making the vast datasets and new concepts generated by EarthScope available to the general public, there is a greater likelihood that there will be support from the voters who will ultimately fund the costs of applying the geoscience to societal problems and opportunities. The EarthScope proponents and working groups have recognized this, and are to be commended for their plans and ideas. At the same time, the committee recognizes that education and outreach on the scale envisioned will be difficult, and that some focusing will be required. Achievement of this goal will require the involvement of all the scientists within the program, plus professionals in the fields of education, public relations, and communications. EarthScope should build upon the considerable expertise that NASA and NSF have in the broader field of mass communications. Recommendation: Because EarthScope provides a unique opportunity that must not be missed, the committee recommends that the education and outreach aspects of EarthScope, as currently incorporated in EarthScope

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Review of Earthscope Integrated Science planning documents, should be strongly and realistically supported. They must be an integral component of the project. Education specialists should be involved in both the development and execution of the education and outreach programs. Observation: Astronomy projects, such as the Hubble telescope, are fundamental to our understanding of how our universe works but have little direct significance in terms of immediate economic impact. The earth sciences, on the other hand, have the benefit of dealing not only with the beauty of understanding how our planet works, but also with the societal and economic impact of its processes and their effects on human life on the earth’s surface. EarthScope will address both aspects of this dichotomy. The sense of awe in understanding the behavior of our continent, with its associated earthquakes and volcanism, will be balanced by an awareness of how it influences our daily lives. The excitement of this knowledge, and the cautions associated with it, bear directly on public health, safety, and security. The increasing urbanization of North America—with its attendant demand for more high-speed highways, dams, bridges, and tracks for new high-speed inter-city trains—requires a knowledge of the crust and its stability essential for our economic well-being and quality of life. Recommendation: As they continue to develop documents to inform the public about the project, the committee recommends that the EarthScope proponents forcefully communicate the role of EarthScope as an important source of the earth science information required by society for natural hazard mitigation, resource utilization, land-use planning and environmental protection.

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Review of Earthscope Integrated Science APPROPRIATE PARTNERSHIPS Observation: Understanding the dynamics of plate movements and plate boundaries requires knowledge about motions offshore, because although the continental crust extends far beyond the present shoreline, the EarthScope installations do not extend into the marine realm. Extension of the seismic array beyond the terrestrial portion of North America will rely on deployment of arrays of ocean bottom seismometers (OBS). Similarly, extension of the PBO facility offshore will rely on data from oceanic GPS-acoustic and strainmeter instruments. A complementary program, NEPTUNE, plans to make a range of measurements offshore from the Pacific Northwest, based on OBS, GPS-acoustic, and strainmeter deployments. In addition, other members of the ocean science community are planning to deploy OBS instruments at a range of locations off the coasts of North America. Recommendation: The committee recommends that the EarthScope Working Group actively pursue coordination between the EarthScope and ocean geoscience programs, including NEPTUNE, to ensure that the establishment of EarthScope facilities and the deployment of GPS-acoustic, strainmeter, and OBS arrays supported by the marine geological and geophysical community are complementary. Observation: Several large scientific programs are currently in the process of planning extensive educational and outreach efforts. An example of particular scientific significance to EarthScope is the proposed NEPTUNE program that will instrument the Juan de Fuca Plate off the coast of Washington and Oregon.

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Review of Earthscope Integrated Science Recommendation: The committee recommends that EarthScope establish liaisons and communications with other appropriate programs to build on existing progress in the development of major geoscience educational and outreach efforts. Observation: Just as the crust underlying the United States extends beyond the modern shoreline, many geological features extend across the political borders of the United States into Canada and Mexico. The EarthScope Working Group has categorized the EarthScope initiative as seeking to “…dramatically advance our physical understanding of the North American continent by exploring its three-dimensional structure…1” and has indicated that it will seek to collaborate with colleagues in Canada and Mexico to integrate data produced by programs in these countries with EarthScope data from the United States. The committee considers that international collaborative programs of this type will significantly enhance the value of the information amassed by research in the United States. Recommendation: The committee endorses the intent of the EarthScope proponents to seek collaboration with colleagues in Canada and Mexico to extend the understanding of crustal and lithosphere dynamics beyond the political borders of the United States. The committee believes that EarthScope will provide a powerful stimulus for joint international scientific programs, in the same way as the transects compiled during the Decade of North American Geology (DNAG) and the creation of continent-wide data sets for potential fields (e.g., gravity and aeromagnetics) stimulated past collaborations. 1   EarthScope Working Group, 2001, EarthScope—A New View into Earth; draft EarthScope Project Plan.

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Review of Earthscope Integrated Science SUMMARY The committee concludes that the plan for the integrated EarthScope facilities is sound. The plan reflects the input of a broad cross-section of the geophysical community and mature consideration and planning over a decade. The project is very well conceived. The committee is confident that through broad involvement of the appropriate earth science community, the detailed science plans and strategies for the use of the facilities will be similarly well conceived and articulated. The potential scientific benefits of the total program to the earth sciences are of immense importance; the potential benefits to society of “applied science” stemming from the program are equally outstanding. EarthScope represents a truly visionary program for the earth sciences. The committee enthusiastically endorses the total program and all of its components.

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