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National Security Implications of Climate Change for U.S. Naval Forces
ocean, and sea-ice modeling and forecasting capabilities. The Navy’s R&D efforts are intended to infuse new model, computing, and observational technologies into operational capabilities.
At present, almost all data collection and modeling efforts within the Navy have a marine focus for tactical purposes. It is anticipated that requirements for such tactical scale observations will continue and that they will be an integral part of naval operations in the future. Here the committee addresses the related but distinct requirements for global-scale observations and modeling as part of a naval R&D climate change risk management strategy over the next 30 years. This R&D effort is intended to provide the information necessary for enhancing the U.S. Navy’s maritime domain awareness and for reducing uncertainties in seasonal to decadal timescale forecasts that guide long-range Navy planning.
Projected effects of climate change suggest it will alter the physical environment in which the Navy operates in the coming decades. Warming ocean and land temperatures, rising sea levels, disappearing Arctic sea ice, shrinking glaciers and ice sheets, shifts in rainfall patterns, and changes in storm frequency, intensity, and spatial distribution are among the projected manifestations of climate change. The implications of these changes are such that the climatological databases that the U.S. naval forces have used in the past may no longer be valid in the future.
Against this backdrop, U.S. naval forces will become even more dependent in the future on observations, analysis products, and forecasts of the global environment to carry out its mission. The U.S. naval forces’ needs will be largely focused on the maritime environment as in the past; because of their humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) mission and shore-based facilities, however, naval forces will also require information on evolving environmental conditions in continental regions where vulnerabilities to climate change are greatest. There will also be regions, like the Arctic, that require special attention because of the unique mix of environmental, societal, and national security issues that they present.
Current Status of Global Ocean Observations
To carry out its mission, the U.S. Navy needs many ocean, atmosphere, cryosphere, and land measurements. Key parameters that need to be measured in the marine environment to support naval operations include temperature, salinity, ocean currents, surface waves, coastal sea level, sound speed, ambient noise, and, in polar regions, sea-ice extent and thickness. Marine meteorological measurements are also needed for winds, air temperature, pressure, relative humidity, precipitation, and other parameters. At present, these data are required to support fleet operations on tactical timescales and space scales. They are used primarily for describing current conditions and for forecasting evolving conditions in the oceans and the atmosphere on timescales of about a few days to a week. The discussions in this section extend beyond the tactical scale to address global