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6.2
National Imperatives for Earth Science Research

STATEMENTS BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION SUBCOMMITTEE ON SPACE, AERONAUTICS, AND RELATED SCIENCES

March 7, 2007

Statement of Berrien Moore III, Ph.D.

University Distinguished Professor

Director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space

University of New Hampshire

Co-Chair, Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space

National Research Council, The National Academies


Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority Member, and members of the committee: thank you for inviting me here to testify today. My name is Berrien Moore, and I am a professor of systems research at the University of New Hampshire and Director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space I appear today in my capacity as co-chair of the National Research Council (NRC)’s Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space: A Community Assessment and Strategy for the Future.

The National Research Council is the unit of the National Academies that is responsible for organizing independent advisory studies for the federal government on science and technology. In response to requests from NASA, NOAA, and the USGS, the NRC has recently completed a “decadal survey” of Earth science and applications from space. (“Decadal surveys” are the 10-year prioritized roadmaps that the NRC has done for 40 years for the astronomers; this is the first time it is being done for Earth science and applications from space.) Among the key tasks in the charge to the decadal survey committee were to:

  • Develop a consensus of the top-level scientific questions that should provide the focus for Earth and environmental observations in the period 2005-2020; and

  • Develop a prioritized list of recommended space programs, missions, and supporting activities to address these questions.

The NRC survey committee has prepared an extensive report in response to this charge, which I am pleased to be able to summarize here today. Over 100 leaders in the Earth science community participated on the survey steering committee or its seven study panels. It is noteworthy that this was the first Earth science decadal survey, and the committee and panel members did an excellent job in fulfilling the charge and establishing a consensus—a task many previously considered impossible. A copy of the full report has also been provided for your use.

The committee’s vision is encapsulated in the following declaration, first stated in the committee’s April 2005 Interim Report:

“Understanding the complex, changing planet on which we live, how it supports life, and how human activities affect its ability to do so in the future is one of the greatest intellectual challenges facing humanity. It is also one of the most important challenges for society as it seeks to achieve prosperity, health, and sustainability.”

As detailed in the committee’s final report, and as we were profoundly reminded by the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world faces significant and profound environmental challenges: shortages of clean and accessible freshwater, degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, increases in soil erosion, changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere, declines in fisheries, and above all the rapid pace of substantial changes in climate. These changes are not isolated; they interact with each other and with natural variability in complex ways that cascade through the environment across local, regional, and global scales. Addressing these societal challenges requires that we confront key scientific questions related to ice sheets and sea level change, large-scale and persistent shifts in precipitation and water availability, transcontinental air pollution, shifts in ecosystem structure and function in response to climate change, impacts of climate change on human health, and occurrence of extreme events, such as hurricanes, floods and droughts, heat waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

Yet at a time when the need has never been greater, we are faced with an Earth observation program that will dramatically diminish in capability over the next 5–10 years.



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 Congressional Testimony 6.2 National Imperatives for Earth Science Research STATEMENTS BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION SUBCOMMITTEE ON SPACE, AERONAUTICS, AND RELATED SCIENCES March 7, 2007 Statement of Berrien Moore III, Ph.D. University Distinguished Professor Director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space University of New Hampshire Co-Chair, Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space National Research Council, The National Academies Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority Member, and members of the committee: thank you for inviting me here to testify today. My name is Berrien Moore, and I am a professor of systems research at the University of New Hampshire and Director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space I appear today in my capacity as co-chair of the National Research Council (NRC)’s Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space: A Community Assessment and Strategy for the Future. The National Research Council is the unit of the National Academies that is responsible for organizing inde- pendent advisory studies for the federal government on science and technology. In response to requests from NASA, NOAA, and the USGS, the NRC has recently completed a “decadal survey” of Earth science and applications from space. (“Decadal surveys” are the 10-year prioritized roadmaps that the NRC has done for 40 years for the astrono- mers; this is the first time it is being done for Earth science and applications from space.) Among the key tasks in the charge to the decadal survey committee were to: • Develop a consensus of the top-level scientific questions that should provide the focus for Earth and envi- ronmental observations in the period 2005-2020; and • Develop a prioritized list of recommended space programs, missions, and supporting activities to address these questions. The NRC survey committee has prepared an extensive report in response to this charge, which I am pleased to be able to summarize here today. Over 100 leaders in the Earth science community participated on the survey steering committee or its seven study panels. It is noteworthy that this was the first Earth science decadal survey, and the committee and panel members did an excellent job in fulfilling the charge and establishing a consensus—a task many previously considered impossible. A copy of the full report has also been provided for your use. The committee’s vision is encapsulated in the following declaration, first stated in the committee’s April 2005 Interim Report: “Understanding the complex, changing planet on which we live, how it supports life, and how human activities affect its ability to do so in the future is one of the greatest intellectual challenges facing humanity. It is also one of the most important challenges for society as it seeks to achieve prosperity, health, and sustainability.” As detailed in the committee’s final report, and as we were profoundly reminded by the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world faces significant and profound environmental challenges: shortages of clean and accessible freshwater, degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, increases in soil erosion, changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere, declines in fisheries, and above all the rapid pace of substan- tial changes in climate. These changes are not isolated; they interact with each other and with natural variability in complex ways that cascade through the environment across local, regional, and global scales. Addressing these societal challenges requires that we confront key scientific questions related to ice sheets and sea level change, large- scale and persistent shifts in precipitation and water availability, transcontinental air pollution, shifts in ecosystem structure and function in response to climate change, impacts of climate change on human health, and occurrence of extreme events, such as hurricanes, floods and droughts, heat waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Yet at a time when the need has never been greater, we are faced with an Earth observation program that will dramatically diminish in capability over the next 5–10 years.

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6 Space Studies Board Annual Report—007 The Interim Report described how satellite observations have been critical to scientific efforts to understand the Earth as a system of connected components, including the land, oceans, atmosphere, biosphere, and solid-Earth. It also gave examples of how these observations have served the nation, helping to save lives and protect property, strengthening national security, and contributing to the growth of our economy through provision of timely envi- ronmental information. The Interim Report documented that NASA had cancelled, scaled back, or delayed at least six planned missions, including a Landsat continuity mission. This led to the main finding in the Interim Report: “this system of environmental satellites is at risk of collapse.” Since the publication of the Interim Report, the Hydros and Deep Space Climate Observatory missions were cancelled; the flagship Global Precipitation Mission was delayed for another two and a half years; significant cuts were made to NASA’s Research and Analysis program; the NPOESS Preparatory Project mission was delayed for a year and a half; a key atmospheric profiling sensor planned for the next generation of NOAA geostationary satellites was canceled; and cost overruns led to the NPOESS program undergoing a “Nunn-McCurdy” review. The recertified NPOESS program delays the first launch by 3 years, eliminates 2 of the planned 6 spacecraft, and de-manifests or de-scopes a number of instruments, with particular consequences for measurement of the forcing and feedbacks that need to be measured to understand the magnitude, pace, and consequences of global and regional climate change. It is against this backdrop that I discuss the present report. The Decadal Survey presents a vision for the Earth science program; an analysis of the existing Earth observ- ing system and recommendations to help restore its capabilities; an assessment of and recommendations for new observations and missions needed for the next decade; an examination of and recommendations concerning effective application of those observations; and an analysis of how best to sustain that observation and applications system. A critical element of the study’s ision is its emphasis on the need to place the benefits to society that can be proided by an effectie Earth obseration system on a par with scientific adancement. The integrated suite of space missions and supporting and complementary activities that are described in our report will support the development of numerous applications of high importance to society. The expected benefits of the fully-implemented program include: • Human Health More reliable forecasts of infectious and vector-borne disease outbreaks for disease control and response. • Earthquake Early Warning Identification of active faults and prediction of the likelihood of earthquakes to enable effective investment in structural improvements, inform land-use decisions, and provide early warning of impending earthquakes. • Weather Prediction Longer-term, more reliable weather forecasts. • Sea Level Rise Climate predictions based on better understanding of ocean temperature and ice sheet vol- ume changes and feedback to enable effective coastal community planning. • Climate Prediction Robust estimates of primary climate forcings for improved climate forecasts, including local predictions of the effects of climate change; determination in time and space of sources and sinks of carbon dioxide. • Freshwater Availability More accurate and longer-term precipitation and drought forecasts to improve water resource management. • Ecosystem Services More reliable land-use, agricultural, and ocean productivity forecasts to improve plant- ing and harvesting schedules and fisheries management. • Air Quality More reliable air quality forecasts to enable effective urban pollution management. • Extreme Storm Warnings Longer-term, more reliable storm track forecasts and intensification predictions to enable effective evacuation planning. I will now turn to a brief discussion of the budgetary implications of our recommendations. The President’s FY ’08 budget request for NASA Earth science is a mixture of some good news and bad news. The primary bit of good news is the small bottom line increases for 2008 and 2009. These increases address the needs of currently planned missions already in development, the completion of which is consistent with the decadal survey’s baseline set of assumptions. Unfortunately, the out-year budgets reeal fundamental flaws in the budget and NASA’s Earth science plans— the budgets are totally inadequate to accomplish the decadal survey’s recommendations. In 2010, the Earth science budget begins to decline again and reaches a 20-year low, in real terms, in 2012. This decline reflects that the 2008

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7 Congressional Testimony budget contains no provision for new missions, nor does it allow us to address the significant challenges facing our planet. These disturbing broad budgetary trends are captured in Figure 1. Before turning to NOAA, I want to emphasize that the problems in the out-years appear to be due entirely to the lack of adequate resources. In fact, at a NASA town hall meeting that followed the release of our report on January 15, 2007 at the 2007 annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society, the head of NASA’s Earth Science program, who appears today with me as a witness, stated that the recommendations in our report provided the roadmap for the Earth Science program we should have. The NOAA NESDIS budget picture is also a mixture of some good and bad news. In this case, the budget takes a small downturn in FY08, followed by significant growth in FY09–FY10, before turning down again in FY11 (Figure 2). It remains to be seen whether this ~$200 M/year growth in FY09 and FY10 can enable restoration of some of the lost capabilities to NPOESS and GOES-R. There appears to be no budgetary wedge for new starts. Finally, for a variety of reasons, the NOAA NESDIS budget is far from transparent, especially in the out-years. As detailed in our report, between 2006 and the end of the decade, the number of operating U.S. missions will decrease dramatically and the number of operating sensors and instruments on NASA spacecraft, most of which are well past their nominal lifetimes, may decrease by some 35 percent. If present trends continue, reductions of some 50% are possible by 2015. Were this to pass, we would have chosen, in effect, to partially blind ourselves at a time of increasing need to monitor, predict, and develop responses to numerous global environmental challenges. Vital climate records, such as the measurement of solar irradiance and the Earth’s response, will be placed in jeopardy or lost. Measurements of aerosols, ozone profiles, sea surface height, sources and sinks of important greenhouse gases, patterns of air and coastal pollution, and even winds in the atmosphere are among the numerous critical measurements that are at risk or simply will not occur if we follow the path of the President 2008 budget and the proposed out-year run out. Taking this path, we will also forgo the economic benefits that would have come, for example, from better management of energy and water, and improved weather predictions. Without action on the report’s recommenda- tions, a decades-long improvements in the skill in which we make weather forecasts will stall, or even reverse; this may be accompanied by diminished capacity to forecast severe weather events and manage disaster response and relief efforts. The nation’s capabilities to forecast space weather will also be at risk, with impacts on commercial aviation and space technology. The world is facing significant environmental challenges: shortages of clean and accessible freshwater, degra- dation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, increases in soil erosion, changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere, declines in fisheries, and the likelihood of significant changes in climate. These changes are occurring over and above the stresses imposed by the natural variability of a dynamic planet, as well as the effects of past and existing patterns of conflict, poverty, disease, and malnutrition. Further, these changes interact with each other and with natural variability in complex ways that cascade through the environment across local, regional, and global scales. To cope responsibly with these challenges requires information about our planet; it requires us to expand our scien- tific basis for foreseeing potential changes and patterns, and this science is dependent upon expanded space-based observation. The needed new missions are set forth in the Decadal Survey; these missions need to be implemented in the coming decade. I would like to thank the Committee for inviting me to testify, and I would be delighted to answer any questions. March 7, 2007 Statement of Otis B. Brown, Ph.D. Dean, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami Member, Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space National Research Council, The National Academies Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority Member, and members of the committee: thank you for inviting me here to testify today. My name is Otis Brown, and I am Dean of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami. I am also a member of the National Research Council’s Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space. As dean of the Rosenstiel School, I have first-hand experience how satellite observations provide real-world results. Following Hurricane Katrina, imagery from our Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing

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 Space Studies Board Annual Report—007 (CSTARS) assisted relief and recovery efforts in New Orleans, tracking to see when and where flood waters had receded to increase the effectiveness of rescue efforts. Also pertinent to the environmental challenges presenting themselves in the Gulf states, we employed satellite imagery that identifies the rate of subsidence in the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans—equally invaluable information when making decisions about the reality and requirements of rebuilding in this area and long-term environmental challenges. This same imagery is what we use to monitor water levels in the Everglades and outbreaks of red tide. And, uses for satellite data only continue to grow as we learn to “see” phenomena like changes in sea surface temperature, sea level, and the size of polar ice caps. I can- not emphasize enough how vital satellite imagery has become to earth observation and consequently our ability to predict, plan, prepare, and respond. I’ve been asked to discuss my perspectives on the “National Imperatives for Earth Sciences Research.” This topic includes areas relevant to many parts of the federal government. My testimony today focuses on the roles of NASA and NOAA. It also addresses some resource and coordination issues for these two agencies. As you may know I have been part of the team that recently produced a decadal plan for Earth observations from space, which provides a prioritized roadmap. Our vision is captured in the following declaration: Understanding the complex, changing planet on which we live, how it supports life, and how human activities affect its ability to do so in the future is one of the greatest intellectual challenges facing humanity. It is also one of the most important challenges for society as it seeks to achieve prosperity, health, and sustainability. As detailed in the NRC report, and further emphasized by the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), our planet is faced with a number of significant scientific and societal challenges and their impacts on key parts of our society, economy, and health. The two-year study contained in the NRC report delineates how NASA’s Earth science budget has declined 30 percent since 2000, with more funding reductions planned as its priority missions of manned trips to Mars and a station on the Moon take further hold. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) likewise faces funding challenges with its National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS)—now three years behind schedule and $3 billion over budget. Additionally, many of the satellite system’s advanced weather and climate instruments have been dropped to address cost and schedule challenges. Meanwhile, current satellites continue to age, and many of us foresee major shortcomings in satellite observations by the end of this decade that will undo much of the progress we have made in earth observation and weather prediction. So, at a time when our need for understanding the Earth system and the need for Earth observations have never been greater, we are faced with declining investments in Earth science, and, an Earth observation program that will significantly diminish in capability over the next decade. The first question the National Research Council committee had to address was the national capabilities for Earth observations. We were troubled by the answer. We found that the current investment strategies had led to a system at risk of collapse. That assessment was based on the observed decline in funding for Earth-observation missions in NASA and the consequent cancellation, downsizing, and delay of a number of critical missions and instruments in both agencies. Since the interim report, matters have only worsened, with further cancellations, descopings and delays of NOAA and NASA satellite plans. This will result in an overall degradation of the network of Earth-observing satellites. There are many potential consequences. Some examples are: • Weather forecasts and warnings may become less accurate, putting more people at risk and diminishing the proven economic value of accurate forecasts—this is particularly important to this country since we must cope with many forms of extreme weather, be it in the form of hurricanes, tornadoes, drought, floods or winter storms. • Climate variability and the rate of change need to be better quantified. Earth is warming because of a small imbalance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing radiation from Earth. Without the recommended measure- ments, we will not be able to quantify how this net energy imbalance is changing, or when or if the planet will stop warming. • Climate models have improved steadily over the years, but are far from perfect and must be improved if we are to intelligently cope with climate change. Satellites provide unique observations of the Earth system and validate and improve these models. • Sea level is rising and glaciers and ice-fields around the world are melting, but we just don’t know how fast these are occurring. Without continuing quantitative observations provided via satellites, we can’t know how these rates change or the implications for coastal communities.

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 Congressional Testimony • Satellite observations could well be pivotal in resolving a controversy about whether the frequency and intensity of hurricanes are increasing; observations of the atmosphere and oceans are essential. • The limited signals of cataclysmic activity come through vigilant observation. That means the risk of missing early detection of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions will increase. • The bottom line is: Earth science is based fundamentally on observations. While it is impossible to predict what scientific advances will not occur without the observations, or what surprises we will miss, we can be sure the rate of scientific progress will be greatly slowed—perhaps even undone to some degree. Without a doubt, it takes us backwards rather than forwards. Significant advances in hurricane forecasting over the past three decades have come from orbiting satellites that take timely, high-resolution pictures and provide improved estimates of surface wind over the ocean. The satellite images are all over the TV for the public to view, but scientists, dissect them further. From sea level, sea surface temperatures and winds to red tide outbreaks and oil spills, satellite observations afford us a better, informed view of our Earth. The climate debate has been driven by debate over model capabilities and the lack of long-term critical observa- tions relevant to climate. Many of the capabilities to make such observations exist in the research domain, but have not been transitioned into an operational setting. Our NRC report noted the difficulties in transferring NASA and NOAA research into operational use. That is because there is currently no process to include the necessary scientific input, resources and exploitation capabilities to either facilitate or to define this transition. Thus, we are seeing the winding down of the NASA Earth Observing System and its broad Earth-observing capabilities and information delivery systems, with no apparent way for our nation to harvest the fruits of this multi-billion dollar investment, or, to continue prototype research systems with proven operational value. The follow-on NOAA system, NPOESS, is late and more than likely will not overlap the NASA systems, and, most of the climate-related capabilities are not in its baseline. Put succinctly, much needed long-term time-series of Earth processes required for decisions in this changing world will be lost. This is due to the lack of a functional relationship between research (NASA) and operations (NOAA) for Earth observing systems, and, a lack of resources in NOAA to address all its Earth observ- ing requirements. The challenge in Earth sciences is that the breadth of study is so large that it’s difficult to develop a set of priorities across disciplines. This is the first ever report to provide an integrated set of national priorities for Earth observing from space. It’s equally difficult for anyone to imagine how it affects them individually. Often times, it seems we speak in a foreign language about solar irradiance, vector sea surface winds, limb sounding of ozone profiles and water vapor soundings from geostationary and polar orbits—perhaps this is not the clearest way for the public to understand how humans have become dependent on tools that reside in outer space. What is important to understand about the plan our committee recommended is that its financial requirements are NOT astronomical. In fact, implementing all of the recommendations requires only that we bring the program up to funding levels comparable to the year 2000. The plan we recommend calls for undertaking 17 new NASA and NOAA missions in the period 2008-2020, as well as restoring some of the capabilities lost on NPOESS and GOES, and revitalizing a few delayed NASA missions like GPM and Landsat. Our recommendations for NASA can be implemented in an extremely cost-effective manner. The committee understood the financial constraints and therefore had to find missions capable of tackling several scientific questions simultaneously. The result is that we reduced the number of possible new missions from more than 100 down to 17 broad-ranging, high-value, multipur- pose missions. But to accomplish this, NASA’s Earth science budget must be restored to year 2000 funding levels. We think this is very reasonable given the obvious societal needs and benefits. The truth of the matter is that this field of science is inextricably linked to our daily life and that of future genera- tions. Climate variability and natural disasters are taking a significant toll on our economy, our environment, and our well being. And, that is why we must sustain the Earth observations that underpin national preparedness and response. Implementing these missions will not only greatly reduce the risk of natural disasters of all kinds to the people of our country and the world, they will also support more efficient management of natural resources including water, energy, fisheries, and ecosystems, and support the economy. Thus, the cost of the program is repaid many times over. The observing system we envision is affordable and will help establish a firm, sustainable foundation for Earth science and real societal benefits through the year 2020 and beyond. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.