Achieving those results will require an integrated, vigorous, targeted program of research, technology development, measurements, and monitoring. The roadmap for such a program will include obtaining and using new knowledge to improve existing forecasts, developing new suites of forecasts, and anticipating and mitigating the effects of natural and human-induced hazards through the use of new and more reliable information. The roadmap also envisions fully leveraging multiagency, multisector commitments and expertise to accelerate the transition of research into operations for beneficial uses by decision makers and the public (NRC, 2000, 2003a,b). By 2025, use of a growing weather database will be as common as use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) is today.


Weather is crucial to all societal and economic activities and has no geographic boundaries. Since the beginning of the space age, the operational and research weather satellites of NOAA, NASA, and DOD have served the diverse weather community well. The United States shares vast amounts of satellite data with international partners daily. Global exchange and exploitation of satellite data is a long-standing hallmark of the international weather community.

The efforts of climate, hydrologic, oceanographic, and other research communities benefit from the work of the weather science and applications community (NRC, 2004), which spans traditional weather forecasting (e.g., clouds and rain), chemical weather (e.g., air pollution), and space weather (e.g., solar-induced communication interference). All of those research communities thus share a dependence on satellite weather observations as a primary source of data. The advances in scientific understanding and forecast capability during the four decades since the introduction of satellite meteorology have been remarkable, but further dramatic improvements will require obtaining currently unavailable satellite weather observations during the next two decades (Box 10.1). This section outlines the current status of and weaknesses in the satellite system, priorities for improvements, and an implementation timeline and lists the panel’s recommended tropospheric-, chemical-, and space-weather measurements for enhanced space-based observations needed to ameliorate analysis deficiencies and improve both numerical and human weather prediction. Those measurement missions are discussed in some detail in the section “Priority Weather Observations and Missions” below.

The panel’s approach to advance weather science and applications from space draws on a proven foundation of increasingly capable global observing systems, modeling systems, and theoretical and computational advances. As satellite observations have progressed during the last 45 years, so also have data assimilation, numerical weather-modeling capabilities, and theoretical understanding of weather processes. In the last 10 years, the community has been building important new data-assimilation tools to optimize use of global observing data sets. The United States—with leadership from NASA, NOAA, the Naval Research Laboratory, and the weather science research community—is well positioned to continue to exploit the opportunities of the future. However, organizational challenges remain. For example, NASA and NOAA are not well organized to develop new science missions to continue advancing weather science and applications from space. Accordingly, the panel recommends creation of a NASA-NOAA Earth Science Applications Pathfinder (ESAP) program that would allow all special missions or instrument flights to quickly take advantage of new capabilities to realize Earth science societal and economic applications, moving from research into operations.

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