Mission planning proved the concept (CZCS) and led to the successful demonstration that water-leaving radiance can be of such high accuracy that climate trends can be quantified (SeaWiFS and MODIS). However, building a climate-quality time-series comes with stringent requirements—most notably the need for continuity and sensor inter-calibration. Now, planning will need to extend beyond the next mission and establish a strategy to sustain the climate-quality data record.
Conclusion: A data-oriented long-term planning approach will need to replace a mission-oriented approach for the global climate-quality ocean color record.
To develop this climate-quality time-series and to advance ocean remote sensing, strategic long-term planning and budgeting is required for all aspects of follow-on missions, including how data are reprocessed, accessed, and stored across the individual missions. In addition, the institutional memory and workforce need to be maintained and transitioned across individual missions to ensure some measure of consistency and to avoid inefficiencies. NOAA and NASA will continue to have mutual interests in the ocean color climate data record as well as in advances in remote sensing. Therefore, they would benefit from sharing in the development of these long-term plans.
Going forward, a national working group similar to the international IOCCG working group, with strong governance, clear mandate, and financial resources, is needed to guide the direction of ocean color remote sensing in the United States and to implement changes at the national level. This committee also would provide oversight and long-term vision for the development of U.S. ocean color missions and the delivery of ocean color products to users. The long-term vision also needs to ensure the next generation of satellite oceanographers is sufficiently trained in order to maintain the required expertise at every level, from sensor engineering to data processing and application.
In the long term, simply sustaining the current capabilities of ocean color remote sensing will fall short of supporting the array of ocean color applications described in Chapter 2. Many ocean color applications require a commitment to advancing current capabilities. Foremost, these advances need to include hyperspectral and active imaging capabilities and a sensor in geostationary orbit for coastal applications.
Therefore, the committee recommends above that NASA and NOAA form a working group to determine the most effective way to satisfy each agency’s need for ocean color products from VIIRS and future ocean color sensors. This working group could be the focal point for U.S. collaborations with the international community and for articulating U.S. needs for specific data from international missions, for helping to negotiate how those needs will be met and for advocating for advanced capabilities to support future ocean color applications.
Moreover, because the community will require distinct types of satellite sensors to meet all data product needs, no single nation will be able to develop or even maintain capabilities on its own. NASA and NOAA will need to continue to actively engage and contribute to the development of the international OCR-VC. Ocean color remote sensing needs to be an internationally shared effort.