climate change; and long-term changes in the level of geomagnetic activity are used to infer changes in the Sun’s magnetic field and the solar wind, possibly of significance to global change.2 Long-term, continuous data records are also useful for practical applications, such as planning for geomagnetic-storm-induced power and communications disruptions3 or for establishing reliable baselines for geomagnetic surveys. Much of the data used in the above applications are archived at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC).

Although a number of federal and state government agencies collect environmental data, NOAA is responsible for providing long-term stewardship of environmental data, thereby ensuring their usefulness to current and future generations of scientists.4 This mission is carried out under the auspices of NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), which operates three environmental data centers: NGDC, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), and the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC). Together, the data centers disseminate and archive over 1 petabyte (1015 bytes) of data that are used to study processes operating anywhere from the center of the Earth to the Sun. NGDC has the smallest base budget of the NOAA data centers (Table 1.1), but its holdings span the most disciplines. NGDC’s holdings include information on aurora, cosmic ray, ionospheric, and solar phenomena; bathymetry, topography, and relief; earthquake, volcano, and tsunami hazards; ecosystems; geomagnetism; marine geology; marine trackline geophys-


J.D. Hays, J. Imbrie, and N.J. Shackleton, 1976, Variations in the Earth’s orbit: Pace-maker of the ice ages, Science, 194, 1121-1131; N.J. Shackleton, S.J. Crowhurst, G.P. Weedon, and L.J. Laskar, 1999, Astronomical calibration of Oligocene-Miocene time, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series A, 357, 1907-1930; C.T. Russell, 1975, On the possibility of deducing interplanetary and solar parameters from geomagnetic records, Solar Physics, 42, 259-269; M. Lockwood, 2001, Long-term variations in the magnetic field of the sun and heliosphere: Their origin, effects and implications, Journal of Geophysical Research, 106, 16,021-16,038.


Use of good geomagnetic storm forecasts could save the U.S. electricity industry $350 million over three years. See NOAA economic statistics, May 2002, <> and references therein.


At the federal level environmental data are collected by the 10 agencies that participate in the U.S. Global Change Research Program: Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy (DOE), and Health and Human Services; Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; NOAA; National Science Foundation; Smithsonian Institution; and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). See Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research, 2002, Our Changing Planet: The Fiscal Year 2003 U.S. Global Change Research Program and Climate Change Research Initiative, Washington, D.C., 124 pp. DOE and USGS also have a formal mission to archive environmental data. However, the vast majority of environmental data collected by federal agencies is eventually archived at NOAA.

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