Statement of Task
This study documents specific scientific accomplishments resulting from the nation’s research and development of space-based Earth observational capabilities. The study committee sought broad community input to identify examples of important accomplishments, in part by drawing on the expertise of the various entities within the National Academies and also involving those scientific communities that develop and use remote sensing observations of the Earth.
The study’s main objective is to document, using examples and explanation, how satellite observations uniquely contributed to scientific understanding of the atmosphere, ocean, land, biosphere, and cryosphere. As secondary objectives, the study also addresses how satellite observations have contributed to the ability to predict variations in the Earth system (e.g., weather, climate variability, water availability, earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis) and comments on opportunities to improve future Earth science research enabled by the vantage point of space.
To the extent possible, the committee organizes its comments to correspond to NASA’s seven Earth science foci: (1) atmospheric composition; (2) carbon cycle and ecosystems; (3) climate variability and change; (4) earth surface and interior structure; (5) weather; (6) water and energy cycles; and (7) Sun-Earth connection.