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Observing Weather and Climate from the Ground Up: A Nationwide Network of Networks
To lend substance to its vision, the Committee has structured consideration of “national needs” into six broad themes: (1) weather prediction and climate monitoring, (2) research, (3) energy security, (4) public health and safety, (5) transportation, and (6) water and food.
The report is organized as follows: In the remainder of Chapter 1, we describe the historical development of meteorological observations in the United States, culminating in a summary of the current policy and technical contexts.
Chapter 2 surveys existing needs for mesoscale observations within the fundamental categories of weather prediction, climate monitoring, and research. “Fundamental” is the appropriate word, because the infrastructure required to collect, process, quality-check, and incorporate the raw observations into prediction models serves all other applications of economic significance. One may question why climate is considered in this report. Climate is in part a statistical representation of day-to-day weather in terms of means and departures from the mean. As such, it has mesoscale variability just like the weather, dependent upon latitude, topography, and land surface conditions. Thus, mesoscale observations that serve the purposes of weather monitoring and prediction also serve the purpose of climate, even though the standards of measurement may be different. Research is included in Chapter 2 for two reasons: (1) observations both suggest and confirm theories, and (2) research, particularly that involving field programs, often suggests novel ways of observing the atmosphere and prompts new instrument development.
Chapter 3 examines five representative sectors of the U.S. economy that depend heavily upon the mesoscale observing and modeling infrastructure: energy security, public health and safety, transportation, water resources, and food production. For each economic sector, we discuss the importance of mesoscale observing to the national economy and current assets and gaps in the observing system. The Committee hopes that Chapters 2 and 3 will bring into sharp focus the ubiquitous effects of weather and climate on national life and the astounding diversity of needs for mesoscale observing.
Chapter 4 is a guide to current observing capabilities and a preview of emerging instrument technologies. Taking a cue from the title of this report, “From the Ground Up,” this chapter first considers surface observations, then moves to sensors attached to platforms that pass through the atmosphere (e.g., balloons, aircraft) or sample it remotely from the ground (e.g., radars). Next, the chapter summarizes satellite observing systems and stresses the complementary roles of space-based and ground-based systems. While this study ultimately focuses on observations that resolve mesoscale features, the utility of such observations is partly defined by a broader suite