that a high-level joint NASA-NOAA planning and coordination office should be established to focus specifically on the transition process.
The ability to observe and predict Earth’s environment, including weather, space weather, and climate, and to improve the accuracy of those predictions in a complex society that is ever more dependent on environmental variability and change, has heightened the importance and value of environmental observations and information. These observations, and the predictions on which they are based, are now essential to many components of society—including national defense, industry, policy-making bodies, and the people and institutions that manage natural resources—as well as to the comfort, health, and safety of the public. It is estimated that as much as 40 percent of the $10 trillion U.S. economy is affected by weather and climate annually.
Because satellites can observe the entire Earth at relatively low cost, they play an essential role in contributing to the global database that describes the Earth system and that is necessary for prediction. Advances in remote sensing technology and research have put the dream of an Earth Information System (EIS)—which would make available to a myriad of users valuable quantitative digital data about the complete Earth system—within reach in the next few decades. The scientific and technological foundation for the vision of the EIS rests on the opportunity to observe the complete Earth system with unprecedented resolution and accuracy and to assimilate the diverse observations into complex models. Satellites will provide many, though not all, of the future observations required to describe Earth completely.
Realizing the vision of the EIS and the predictive capabilities that it supports, however, is neither easy nor guaranteed. It depends on transferring the advances in research and technology—many of which are accomplished by NASA and its university and private sector partners—to useful products, applications, and operations, which are primarily the responsibility of NOAA and the Department of Defense (DOD). How to improve this technology transfer, or “transitioning,” process in the area of weather and climate is the subject of this report. Although the report focuses on weather and climate and on NASA and NOAA, the lessons learned and the recommendations presented here are likely to be relevant to other satellite applications and to other agencies.
In the more than 40 years since the launch of the first weather satellite, the Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS-I), on April 1, 1960, there have been many successful transfers of NASA research into NOAA and DOD operations. These successful transfers have led to a steady increase in forecast accuracy and to a variety of beneficial applications for society, including the protection of life and