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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 6.5 NASA’s Earth Science and Applications Programs: Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request and Issues STATEMENTS BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SUBCOMMITTEE ON SPACE AND AERONAUTICS June 28, 2007 Statement of Richard A. Anthes, Ph.D. President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and Co-Chair, Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space National Research Council, The National Academies Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority Member Calvert, and members of the subcommittee: thank you for inviting me to testify on this important subject. My name is Richard Anthes, and I am the President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), a consortium of 70 research universities that manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on behalf of the National Science Foundation, and additional scientific education, training and support programs. I am also the current President of the American Meteorological Society. 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. 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 pre-publication version of the report was published in January 2007 and is available at <http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11820.html>. The committee’s vision is encapsulated in the following declaration, first stated in the committee’s interim report, published in 2005: 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 forcefully reminded by the latest set of reports 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 eco-
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 system structure and function, impacts of climate change on human health, and occurrence of extreme events, such as hurricanes, floods and droughts, heat waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. As a result, one way or the other, our international neighbors and we will undoubtedly be taking steps in an effort to deal with the climate changes we will confront. And as we do so, policy makers and others will want to know if such steps are actually making a difference in addressing climate change. Yet at a time when the need for that kind of information has never been greater, we are faced with an Earth observation program that will dramatically diminish in capability over the next 10-15 years. Between 2006 and the end of the decade, the number of operating missions will decrease dramatically and the number of operating sensors and instruments on NASA spacecraft, most of which are well past their nominal lifetimes, will decrease by some 35 percent, with a 50 percent reduction by 2015 (Fig. 1). Substantial loss of capability is likely over the next several years due to a combination of decreased budgets and aging satellites already well past their design lifetimes. In its report, the committee sets forth a series of near-term and longer-term recommendations in order to address these troubling trends. It is important to note that this report does not “shoot for the moon,” and indeed the committee exercised considerable restraint in its recommendations, which were carefully considered within the context of challenging budget situations. Yet, while societal applications have grown ever-more dependent upon our Earth observing fleet, the NASA Earth science budget has declined some 30 percent in constant-year dollars since 2000 (Fig. 2). This disparity between growing societal needs and diminished resources must be corrected. This leads to the report’s overarching recommendation: The U.S. government, working in concert with the private sector, academe, the public, and its international partners, should renew its investment in Earth observing systems and restore its leadership in Earth science and applications. The report outlines near-term actions meant to stem the tide of capability deterioration and continue critical data records, as well as forward-looking recommendations to establish a balanced Earth observation program designed to directly address the most urgent societal challenges facing our nation and the world (see Fig. 3 for an example of how nine of our recommended missions support in a synergistic way one of the societal benefit areas—extreme event warnings). It is important to recognize that these two sets of recommendations are not an “either/or” set of priorities. Both near-term actions and longer-term commitments are required to stem the tide of capability deterioration, continue critical climate data records, and establish a balanced Earth observation program designed to directly address the most urgent societal challenges facing our nation and the world. It is important to “right the ship” for Earth science, and we simply cannot let the current challenges we face with NPOESS and other troubled programs stop progress on all other fronts. Implementation of the “stop-gap” recommendations concerning NPOESS, NPP, and GOES-R is important—and the recommendations for establishing a healthy program going forward are equally as important. Satisfying near-term recommendations without placing due emphasis on the forward-looking program is to ignore the largest fraction of work that has gone into this report. Moreover, such a strategy would result in a further loss of U.S. scientific and technical capacity, which could decrease the competitiveness of the United States internationally for years to come. Key elements of the recommended program include: Restoration of certain measurement capabilities to the NPP, NPOESS, and GOES-R spacecraft in order to ensure continuity of critical data sets. Completion of the existing planned program that was used as a baseline assumption for this survey. This includes (but is not limited to) launch of GPM in or before 2012, securing a replacement to Landsat 7 data before 2012. A prioritized set of 17 missions to be carried out by NOAA and NASA over the next decade (see Tables 1 and 2 below). This set of missions provides a sound foundation for Earth science and its associated societal benefits well beyond 2020. The committee believes strongly that these missions form a minimal, yet robust, observational component of an Earth information system that is capable of addressing a broad range of societal needs. A technology development program at NASA with funding comparable to and in addition to its basic technology program to make sure the necessary technologies are ready when needed to support mission starts over the coming decade. A new “Venture” class of low-cost research and application missions that can establish entirely new research avenues or demonstrate key application-oriented measurements, helping with the development of innovative ideas
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 and technologies. Priority would be given to cost-effective, innovative missions rather than ones with excessive scientific and technological requirements. A robust NASA Research and Analysis program, which is necessary to maximize scientific return on NASA investments in Earth science. Because the R&A programs are carried out largely through the Nation’s research universities, such programs are also of great importance in supporting and training the next generation of Earth science researchers. Suborbital and land-based measurements and socio-demographic studies in order to supplement and complement satellite data. A comprehensive information system to meet the challenge of production, distribution, and stewardship of observational data and climate records. To ensure the recommended observations will benefit society, the mission program must be accompanied by efforts to translate raw observational data into useful information through modeling, data assimilation, and research and analysis. Further, the committee is particularly concerned with the lack of clear agency responsibility for sustained research programs and the transitioning of proof-of-concept measurements into sustained measurement systems. To address societal and research needs, both the quality and the continuity of the measurement record must be assured through the transition of short-term, exploratory capabilities, into sustained observing systems. The elimination of the requirements for climate research-related measurements on NPOESS is the most recent example of the failure to sustain critical measurements. Therefore, our committee recommends that the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in collaboration with the relevant agencies, and in consultation with the scientific community, should develop and implement a plan for achieving and sustaining global Earth observations. This plan should recognize the complexity of differing agency roles, responsibilities, and capabilities as well as the lessons from implementation of the Landsat, EOS, and NPOESS programs. In your invitation, Mr. Chairman, you asked me to explicitly address a number of issues and I am pleased to do so: What, in your perspective, should be the top three priorities for the NASA Earth sciences program over the next five years, and what, if any, are the most significant challenges in meeting those priorities? This is a somewhat difficult question to answer. Five years from now is well into the period covered by the Decadal Survey, and the Survey has recommended a balanced set of 15 high priority missions for NASA. This set of 15 missions was derived from over 100 proposed missions, so a great deal of priority setting has already taken place by the community. It is therefore important to make progress on all of these missions during the next five years, with greater attention paid to the recommended missions early in the queue (the 2010 to 2013 timeframe as described in the report). Thus my answer to this question will focus on the highest priorities to begin in FY08 in order to lay the foundation for implementing the full set of recommendations during the next decade. First, NASA should commit to and begin to implement its recommended Decadal Missions. Although, the NASA budget for Earth Sciences is not now adequate to implement the survey recommendations (see next question), a useful start can be made with modest resources. The survey’s initial seven missions (2010-2013) should begin in 2008; the first four (CLARREO, SMAP, ICESat-II, and DESDynI) should begin intensive Phase A activities and the next three (for the time period 2013-2016—HyspIRI, ASCENDS, and SWOT) should begin pre-Phase A studies. Increment needed beyond President’s Request in FY08: $90 million. Second, NASA should increase its suborbital capabilities. NASA’s airborne programs have suffered substantial diminution and should be restored. In addition, NASA should lead in exploiting unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV/ technology). Both conventional and UAV aircraft are needed for instrument development, and hence risk reduction and technology advancement, and for their direct contribution to Earth observations. Increment needed beyond President’s Request in FY08: $10 million. And third, NASA should increase support of its Research and Analysis (R&A) program and in Earth System modeling. Improved information about potential future changes in climate, weather, and other environmental conditions is essential for the benefit and protection of society. This improvement will come from: a) better observations (the recommended missions and enhanced suborbital capabilities); b) more capable models of the Earth System; and c) a vigorous research program to use the observations in models and interpret the results. The R&A program has
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 suffered significant cuts in recent years and these should be reversed. R&A investments are among the most cost-effective as they directly exploit on-going missions, advance knowledge to better define what is needed in the future, and sustain and develop the requisite scientific and engineering workforce. Increment needed beyond President’s Request in FY08: $20 million. What are your perspectives on how well the FY 2008 budget request and out year projections for NASA’s Earth science program align with the recommendations of the Earth science decadal survey? The FY2008 budget request for NASA’s Earth science program is inadequate to meet the recommendations of the decadal survey. Figure 2 compares the request and the requirements to carry out the recommendations. Even with an encouraging increase in the NASA Earth Science request for FY08, it still falls short of what is needed to get a full start on the recommended program. Moreover, the out year projections show a steady decrease when the requirements call for an increase to a level of about $2.1 billion by 2010 with a level budget (in real dollars) after that. This committee’s leadership on Earth sciences and the recent actions in the House appropriations process with respect to FY08 are encouraging and greatly appreciated. I am hopeful that the Congress and the Administration will ultimately support the actions taken by this committee and the appropriators in the FY08 appropriations process and continue to build on that momentum into the future. Could you please describe your views on how NASA might begin to implement the recommendations of the National Academies’ Earth science decadal survey? It is a truism that to begin a long journey you have to take the first step. NASA should first commit to implementing the recommendations in a timely fashion, and then begin developing implementation plans and schedules for the recommended missions and supporting research and technology development. I am encouraged that NASA is planning workshops to further analyze the decadal survey recommended missions, but to develop the survey ideas further will require substantial investments. Implementing the survey results will require modest increments in the NASA Earth Science budget, restoring the budget back to where it was in real dollars in the early part of this decade. This will require NASA to request the necessary resources and for Congress to provide them. Alternatively, Congress could take the lead and require NASA to implement the survey while providing the resources. My recommended first specific steps for implementation are given in my answer to the first question. What are your perspectives, as an individual researcher, on international collaborations in the Earth sciences, and what value would international collaborations offer in advancing the recommended missions in the decadal survey? As the survey states, international partnerships can be very important in implementing complex expensive space missions such as recommended in the survey. Collaborations with other nations not only save scarce resources for all the partners, they promote scientific collaboration and sharing of ideas among talented people of all nations. Most of the smart people in the world do not live in the United States! International collaborations increase the brain pool to carry out the challenging proposed missions and use the observations in creative, innovative ways for the benefit of society. However, international collaborations come at a cost. Any time partners are involved, control must be shared and the success of the mission depends critically on the performance of all the partners. If one partner runs into difficulties (e.g. financial support is withdrawn), the entire mission can be threatened. A successful collaboration also requires assurance that data will be shared and that U.S. scientists are full partners on teams that ensure adequate pre-launch instrument characterization and post-launch instrument calibration and validation. Other issues such as regulations governing the sharing of technologies (e.g. International Traffic in Arms Regulation, ITAR), governance and even language and cultural differences can make international partnerships more difficult and risky than “going it alone.” Nevertheless, the potential benefits outweigh the downsides and NASA, NOAA and their U.S. partners in academia and industry should seek opportunities for international partnerships at every turn.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 Mr. Chairman, the observing system we envision will help establish a firm and sustainable foundation for Earth science and associated societal benefits through the year 2020 and beyond. It can be achieved through effective management of technology advances and international partnerships, and broad use of satellite science data by the research and decision-making communities. Our report recommends a path forward that restores U.S. leadership in Earth science and applications and averts the potential collapse of the system of environmental satellites. As documented in our report, this can be accomplished in a fiscally responsible manner, and I urge the committee to see that it is accomplished. I close my testimony with a quote from Vice Admiral Richard H. Truly, former NASA Administrator, Shuttle Astronaut and the first commander of the Naval Space Command in a recent report National Security and the Threat of Climate Change. Admiral Truly speaks as one of 11 retired senior military officers who wrote this report that describes the serious threat of climate change to the nation’s security. Describing his experience in space 25 years ago, Admiral Truly said: I have images burned in my mind that will never go away—images of the earth and its fragility. I was a test pilot. I was an aviator. I was not an environmentalist. But I do love the natural environment, and seeing the earth from space was the experience that I return to when I think about what we know now about climate…. When you look at the earth’s horizon, you see an incredibly beautiful, but very thin line. That thin line is our atmosphere. And the real fragility of our atmosphere is that there’s so little of it…. The stresses that climate change will put on our national security will be different than any we’ve dealt with in the past. For one thing, unlike the challenges we are used to dealing with, these will come upon us extremely slowly, but come they will, and they will be grinding and inexorable…. Admiral Truly said he was not convinced of the importance of climate change by any person or interest group—he was convinced by the data. We as a nation must continue to provide the data on the Earth, for only the data can reveal the truth that will affect us all. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I am prepared to answer any questions that you may have. June 28, 2007 Statement of Eric J. Barron Dean, Jackson School of Geosciences and Jackson Chair in Earth System Science University of Texas at Austin Member, Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space (Chair, Climate Variability and Change Panel) National Research Council, The National Academies Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority Member Calvert, and members of the subcommittee: I appreciate the opportunity to provide this testimony on NASA’s Earth Science and Applications Programs: Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request and Issues.” My name is Eric Barron, and I am Dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. I was also the Chair of the Climate Variability and Change Panel, which was one of the key components of the National Research Council (NRC)’s Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space: A Community Assessment and Strategy for the Future. Our most basic objective is to simultaneously protect life and property, promote economic vitality, and enable environmental stewardship. Regardless of our views on climate change, we all recognize that this objective is a balancing act. It is impossible to have billions of people on a planet and not have an environmental impact. Impact is also clearly associated with individual, regional and national levels of consumption. We also know that nations that have the strongest economies are the ones who are the most capable of adapting to change or mitigating its adverse consequences. Finding the optimum balance is enormously challenging and is in itself a subject of great debate. However, it becomes impossible if we lack sufficient knowledge of how the Earth operates. We need a commitment in two key areas if we are to achieve this most basic objective. First, we need to know how the components of the Earth are changing in response to human activity and natural forces. Second, we need to continue to improve our ability to “anticipate” or predict the future on a variety of time scales. If current climate projections are correct, climate change over the next ten to twenty years will have highly noticeable impacts on society and the demand on
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 climate scientists will begin to broaden substantially. Impacts on agriculture, water resources, human health, and ecosystems are likely to drive a public demand for climate knowledge that is both sector (agriculture, health, water, etc.) and regionally dependent. It will be our ability to anticipate or forecast all of these elements in the future, and then to take appropriate action on these predictions with full understanding of their uncertainties, that can enable us to simultaneously protect life and property, promote economic vitality, enable environmental stewardship, and help assess a broad range of policy options for decision-makers. This view yields six key tenets that should define the observation systems of the future: Sustained multi-decadal, global measurements and data management of quantities that are key to understanding the state of the climate and the changes taking place are crucial. Climate change research, including the observational system, will be increasingly tied directly toward understanding the processes and interactions needed to improve our predictive capabilities and resolve the probabilities associated with different outcomes. Evaluation and assessment of model capability will increasingly be the focus of future measurement activities. Demonstrating model capability is likely to be a driver for developing and evolving observation systems and field campaigns. The link between climate research and societal benefit will require a much greater emphasis on higher spatial resolutions in climate predictions, observations, and assessments. The “family” of climate observing and forecasting products will continue to grow, involving innovative research into societal connections with energy, agriculture, water, human health, and a host of other areas, creating new public and private partnerships. The demand to understand the connection between climate and specific impacts on natural and human systems will require a more comprehensive approach to environmental observation and modeling in order to integrate the multiple stresses that influence human and natural systems (i.e. climate, land use, and other human stressors such as pollutants). The importance of climate information is clear. As economic impact from climate change grows there will likely be both a change in research emphasis and a demand for much greater investment in climate research. Yet, the NASA investment in climate research and observation is in serious decline. We will enter the next decade with an observing system that is substantially less capable than we had at the start of the 21st century. The specific questions provided by the Subcommittee help elucidate this issue and I am pleased to answer them to the best of my ability. What is NASA’s contribution to the U.S. Climate Science Research Program in terms of percentage of overall expenditures and percentage of sensors dedicated to studying Earth’s Climate? What fraction of the world’s effort on climate change research does NASA’s contribution represent? At the start of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, considerable effort was invested in labeling the contributions of each federal agency to the components of global change research including climate. Further, this analysis identified contributions to the observing and modeling components of the investment in climate research. In 1992, NASA contributions were approximately 70 percent of the total USGCRP budget, with more than a third of the total USGCRP budget focused on climate and hydrology observations provided by NASA (about 400 million dollars of a total budget of 1,185 million). A decade later, growth in NASA investments in USGCRP kept pace with the growth in the total budget, and also kept pace in terms of the investment in climate research. In the FY08 request, NASA’s investment is about 60 percent of the total Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) and the total CCSP budget request is about 6.5 percent above the 2002 USGCRP budget (figures not adjusted for inflation). The full set of segmented disciplinary topics within the USGCRP set of cross-cuts is combined into one CCSP budget. More telling is an analysis of the out-year budgets with their associated numbers of missions and instruments. Even with the extension of some current missions beyond their nominal life times, by 2010 the U.S. will have a 35 percent decrease in the number of operating sensors and instruments on NASA spacecraft. By 2015, the number will have decreased by more than 50 percent. In real dollars, NASA Earth Sciences has declined by more than a half a billion dollars since the 2002 USGCRP budget. The total international investment in climate science is difficult to confirm with certainty by the science commu-
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 nity, but NASA has always been the international leader in Earth observations. The decrease in research, missions, and numbers of instruments is a real loss of capability. The baton is not being passed to international partners, it is simply being dropped. What are your perspectives on the FY2008 budget request for NASA’s Earth Science Program and how well does it position NASA to contribute to the U.S. priorities and plans for climate and related research? The modest increase in the FY2008 budget request for NASA’s Earth Science Program is the first sign that the steady erosion of capability and the lack of a credible program of observations beyond the end of this decade is reversing. However, the FY2008 budget and its out-year projections are simply inadequate. Under current funding and projections, the U.S. will have significant gaps in the long-term observation record, making it more difficult to separate natural and human contributions to climate change and making it more difficult to assess how the Earth is changing. Debates on issues such as the relative importance of solar versus greenhouse causes of warming will continue rather than be solved definitively. Under current funding and projections, the key areas of uncertainty in climate models will very likely continue to languish. Most certainly, the areas of investigation that couple climate change to societally-important areas such as water, health, and food security will be delayed. Stated frankly, our capabilities to address critical questions in climate change in service to society will experience a dramatic decline if the NASA out-year projections are realized. Which missions and observations recommended in the National Academies Earth science decadal survey are most critical for advancing our understanding of climate change and any mitigation and adaptation strategies? What uncertainties in our understanding of change would the observations from those missions help reduce? In my opinion, a decadal survey in the Earth sciences produced a decade ago would have focused on innovation built upon a robust global observing system. Such a survey would likely have focused on new technologies and new capabilities that would have extended our abilities to address difficult variables, improve the quality of our observations, and demonstrate an increase in forecasting capability. Certainly, we would have debated how to balance the notion of entraining new technologies while still preserving continuity of the observations. Likely, we would have debated the best mechanisms to bring the same “discipline of forecasting” that has resulted in dramatic improvements in weather forecasting to a much broader family of variables of interest to our society. In contrast, the Decadal Survey rarely considered the frontiers that we know are in the realm of the possible. This is not a critique of the Decadal Survey. It is a fact that the NRC effort sought primarily to ensure a reasonable and robust set of observations within a tractable budget, where “tractable” is defined as only restoring the budget to its level in 2001 in terms of real dollars, while ensuring that the most critical needs were addressed. For climate studies, the list provided in the National Academies Earth Science Decadal Survey is a base set. It is prioritized in time, taking into account the existing instrumentation and international partners, but each element is critical and the list is not sufficient to solve all of the major uncertainties in forecasting the future. It maintains the most basic needs and adds only those missions which are clearly the most crucial priorities in a set of many critical observations. The request for climate research reveals the level of constraint applied within the Decadal Survey. First, we must have a sufficient set of sustained multi-decadal, global measurements of key variables in order to understand how the Earth is changing, to understand the roles of various natural and human forcing factors, and to assess climate models. Stripped to its fundamentals, the climate is first affected by the long-term balance between incoming and outgoing energy. Both the long-term records of total solar input and the Earth’s energy budget are in jeopardy. Other variables that define the state of the atmosphere and ocean and provide a foundation for both weather forecasting and climate are equally critical. These include such fundamental observations as temperature and water vapor soundings, the distribution of snow and ice, ozone profiles, and surface winds. The de-scoping of NPOESS involved each of these key climate variables. Without the Decadal Survey recommendations we do not address these most basic needs of the climate sciences. Second, current observations and models raise particular concerns about the mass balance and even the stability of the large ice caps. In terms of our capabilities to assess how the Earth system is changing, the ice sheets represent one of the most significant areas of uncertainty and one of the most significant areas in terms of potential societal
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 impact. The Decadal Survey places a high priority on determining ice sheet volume, sea ice thickness, ice sheet surface velocities, and improved estimates of the sensitivity of the ice sheets to climate change. Third, the Decadal Survey calls for a focus on the two areas that are considered to be the most limiting in terms of our ability to improve climate model predictions. The first area is aerosol-cloud forcing. Aerosol climate forcing is similar in magnitude to carbon dioxide forcing, but the uncertainty is estimated to be substantially larger. The impact of aerosols on cloud formation amplifies their importance to the climate system. The Decadal Survey also calls for a focus on measuring ocean circulation, ocean heat storage and ocean climate forcing. Again, the problems are fundamental, involving the measurement of sea level, the importance of how rapidly heat is being mixed into the oceans, and improvements in our ability to simulate the ocean circulation. We are more than capable of providing the observations needed to address the specific topics above. Importantly, the climate chapter of the Decadal Survey also calls for us to address much more challenging problems by bringing innovative approaches to the fore and challenging our ability to return to the cutting-edge of Earth observing. The accurate measurement of the surface fluxes of energy, water and momentum at the Earth’s surface, and an improved ability to examine atmospheric convection (which governs the transport of heat, water vapor, trace gases, and aerosols and defines cloud formation) would substantially advance our ability to predict the future and to understand critical problems such as sea level variations and changes in the distribution and character of precipitation. Missions dedicated to these two important topics are not a part of the priority set from the Decadal Survey. What role, if any, do NASA’s Earth science research and related programs play in validating the accuracy of climate measurements collected from Earth observing satellites and in developing predictive capabilities for climate change and its effects? The decline in capability is not restricted to missions and instruments. The decline in the observation budget is matched by a significant decline in the Research and Analysis budget in the Earth Sciences. Sub-orbital and land-based studies increase our ability to assess and validate climate measurements. A comprehensive approach to the analysis, distribution and stewardship of observations broadens the base of applications and entrains a broader set of disciplines and a higher level of expertise directed toward increasing our confidence in Earth observations, expanding their value, and improving predictive capabilities. The loss of capability has the potential to be long-term and particularly costly because of its timing. The lack of missions, the reduced level of opportunities, the lack of innovation, and the weakness in the Research and Analysis budgets are likely to result in a reduction in student interest, and most clearly in the training of graduate students and post-doctoral researchers. This loss of opportunity, with it potential impact on attracting the next generation of scientists and engineers who design sensor systems and analyze data, matches a time in which a substantial fraction of the NASA Earth sciences workforce is able to retire. The FY2008 and out year budgets have the potential to create significant weakness in the capability of the workforce at the same time that society is demanding an increased emphasis on understanding climate and its impacts. What are your perspectives, as an individual researcher, on international collaborations in the Earth sciences, and what value would international collaborations offer in advancing the recommended missions in the decadal survey? In my opinion, the statements on international collaboration provided in the Decadal Survey are sound. International collaborations have a number of benefits including a reduction in cost and a potential reduction in the likelihood of gaps in key data sets. In addition, collaboration can increase the number of science users and bring a broader array of technologies to bear on a specific problem. NASA has demonstrated success in developing such partnerships, with TOPEX/Poseidon and RADARSAT-1 as good examples. Moreover, it is now relatively common for flight agencies to offer announcements of opportunity to the international science community as the agencies attempt to maximize the payoff of each flight project. However, joint ventures must still be considered with care, particularly for climate data sets. As noted in the Decadal Survey climate chapter, instruments built by one partner may not be designed to the exact requirements of another partner. Although two missions may utilize the same type of instrument—for example an altimeter—and therefore sound like they are duplicative, the differences in design may allow one to resolve ocean eddies and improve our knowledge of the ocean circulation while the other may not achieve this objective. Technology transfer
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 restrictions may also prevent the exchange of important technical details about the instruments. Restrictions on access to data and software vary from country to country, as do approaches to calibration and validation. Joint ventures between government flight agencies and commercial partners can result in serious complications with data cost, availability, and distribution. Missions can also be terminated or significantly altered by host countries, resulting in a greater impact if the other partners had counted on the international partner to provide a key observation or synergistic measurement. International partnerships should only be fostered where synergy between instrument capabilities and the science requirements is strong, where there is free and easy access to data, and where there is transparency in the process of analyzing data such that analysis algorithms are freely available. The Decadal Survey includes many examples where priorities were altered based on knowledge of missions proposed by international partners. A case in point is the cloud-aerosol mission (ACE) proposed by the Decadal Survey which, despite its importance in addressing areas of uncertainty in climate models, was placed in phase 2 (2013-2016) because of cloud and aerosol information that would become available from international sources (GCOM-C and EarthCARE). End Note: An improved ability to predict climate change will allow us to be good stewards of this planet. But few seem to recognize that our ability to better predict the future has benefit far beyond addressing the consequences of increased levels of greenhouse gases. The potential societal benefits are substantial. For example, even modest improvement in seasonal to interannual predictions have the potential for significant societal benefit in agriculture, energy, water, and weather-related management. The Decadal Survey presents a vision that recognizes that the demand for knowledge of climate change and variability will increase. The risk in failing to provide this information is high. However, our ability to serve society through increased observing capability and improved model prediction is far greater than a single issue, even though the issue of climate change is of enormous significance. An improvement in our ability to anticipate the future increases our capability to utilize this knowledge to both limit adverse outcomes and maximize benefits to society.