BOX 4.4

Key Elements of Successful Climate Data Record Generation

On the basis of its review of previous NRC studies (especially NRC, 2004a and 2000c), and its members’ own experience, the committee identified the following as particularly important elements of a sustained long-term program for deriving credible climate data records.

Organizational Elements

  • A high-level leadership council1—including members from different agencies, academia, and industry to oversee the process of defining and creating climate data records (CDRs) from satellite data. Ad hoc advisory committees can be established as needed.

  • Science teams—formed for each CDR, consisting of a specifically appointed team of experts responsible for sensor calibration, algorithm design, validation, and research using the CDR. The science teams should have membership broadly distributed across different agencies, academia, and industry. Multiple subgroups within the science team should be funded to provide independent CDRs from raw (uncalibrated) satellite measurements.

CDR Generation Elements

  • Sensors must be thoroughly characterized before and after launch, and their performance should be continuously monitored throughout their lifetime.

  • Sensors should be thoroughly calibrated, including nominal calibration of sensors in orbit, vicarious calibration with in situ data, and satellite-to-satellite cross-calibration.

  • Algorithm design must consider differences in measurements due to changes in the sensor design or satellite navigation.

  • Well-defined levels of uncertainty are required. An ongoing program that includes correlative in situ measurements and model analyses is required to validate CDRs.

  • Multiple teams should be funded to independently create CDRs. The multiple teams are key to providing the best possible end product. These teams will be responsible for calibration of satellite measurements, developing CDR algorithms, validation of the CDR, and refinement of CDR processing.

  • Researchers must be involved who, through their research, will provide feedback on the quality of the CDRs.

Sustaining CDR Elements

  • A long-term commitment of resources should be made to the generation and archiving of CDRs and associated documentation, data, and metadata.

  • Access to reprocessing resources is required when better sensor calibrations and improved algorithms become available.


1See, in NRC (2004a), pp. 3-4, especially Supporting Recommendation 1: “NOAA should utilize an organizational structure where a high-level leadership council within NOAA receives advice from an advisory council that provides input to the process on behalf of the climate research community and other stakeholders. The advisory council should be supported by instrument and science teams responsible for overseeing the generation of climate data records.”

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