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Committee on New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences at the National Science Foundation Board on Earth Sciences and Resources Division on Earth and Life Studies
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS • 500 Fifth Street, NW • Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EAR-0827414. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations contained in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsor. International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-21924-2 International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-21924-8 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; -http://www.nap.edu. Cover: Gases and ash billowing from Puyehue volcano in southern Chile on June 5, 2011. (Claudio Santana/ AFP/Getty Images) Copyright 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America
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The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advis- ing the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org
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COMMITTEE ON NEW RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES IN THE EARTH SCIENCES AT THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION THORNE LAY (Chair), University of California, Santa Cruz MICHAEL L. BENDER, Princeton University, New Jersey SUZANNE CARBOTTE, Columbia University, New York KENNETH A. FARLEY, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena KRISTINE M. LARSON, University of Colorado, Boulder TIMOTHY LYONS, University of California, Riverside MICHAEL MANGA, University of California, Berkeley HO-KWANG (DAVE) MAO, Carnegie Institution of Washington, DC ISABEL P. MONTAÑEZ, University of California, Davis DAVID R. MONTGOMERY, University of Washington, Seattle PAUL E. OLSEN, Columbia University, New York PETER L. OLSON, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland PATRICIA L. WIBERG, University of Virginia, Charlottesville DONGXIAO (DON) ZHANG, University of Southern California, Los Angeles National Research Council Staff MARK D. LANGE, Study Director JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate v
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BOARD ON EARTH SCIENCES AND RESOURCES CORALE L. BRIERLEY (Chair), Brierley Consultancy, LLC, Highlands Ranch, Colorado KEITH C. CLARKE, University of California, Santa Barbara DAVID J. COWEN, University of South Carolina, Columbia WILLIAM E. DIETRICH, University of California, Berkeley ROGER M. DOWNS, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park JEFF DOZIER, University of California, Santa Barbara WILLIAM L. GRAF, University of South Carolina, Columbia RUSSELL J. HEMLEY, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DC MURRAY W. HITZMAN, Colorado School of Mines, Golden EDWARD KAVAZANJIAN, JR., Arizona State University, Tempe ROBERT B. McMASTER, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis M. MEGHAN MILLER, UNAVCO, Inc., Boulder, Colorado ISABEL P. MONTAÑEZ, University of California, Davis CLAUDIA INÉS MORA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico BRIJ M. MOUDGIL, University of Florida, Gainesville CLAYTON R. NICHOLS, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (retired), Ocean Park, Washington HENRY N. POLLACK, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor JOAQUIN RUIZ, University of Arizona, Tucson PETER M. SHEARER, University of California, San Diego REGINAL SPILLER, Azimuth Investments, LLC RUSSELL E. STANDS-OVER-BULL, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Billings, Montana TERRY C. WALLACE, JR., Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico National Research Council Staff ANTHONY R. de SOUZA, Director ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Senior Program Officer DAVID A. FEARY, Senior Program Officer ANNE M. LINN, Senior Program Officer MARK D. LANGE, Program Officer SAMMANTHA L. MAGSINO, Program Officer JENNIFER T. ESTEP, Financial and Administrative Associate NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate ERIC J. EDKIN, Senior Program Assistant CHANDA IJAMES, Senior Program Assistant vi
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Preface T his report summarizes the findings and rec- In keeping with its charge, the committee did not ommendations of the Committee on New e valuate existing EAR programs or other federal Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences research programs, and budgetary recommendations are (NROES). The committee was charged by the National not provided. This report focuses on new and emerg- Science Foundation (NSF) with undertaking the fol- ing research directions that significantly intersect the lowing tasks to advise NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences portfolio of EAR research interests in surface and deep (EAR)1: Earth processes. Research directions that are funded primarily by other NSF divisions are not addressed, • Identify high-priority new and emerging but several interdisciplinary research opportunities research opportunities in the Earth sciences that EAR can position itself to pursue do straddle over the next decade, including surface and deep boundaries with other organizations both within the Earth processes and interdisciplinary research NSF Directorate for Geosciences (GEO: Division of with fields such as ocean and atmospheric sci- Ocean Sciences [OCE] and Division of Atmospheric ences, biology, engineering, computer science, and Geospace Sciences [AGS]) and more broadly and social and behavioral sciences. across NSF (Office of Polar Programs, Directorate for • Identify key instrumentation and facilities Biological Sciences, Directorate for Mathematical and needed to support these new and emerging Physical Sciences). Interagency coordination with the research opportunities. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. • Describe opportunities for increased coopera- Department of Energy, and U.S. Geological Survey also tion in these new and emerging areas between is of great importance for pursuing key Earth science EAR and other government agency programs, research opportunities in the future. industry, and international programs. The National Research Council (NRC) has issued • Suggest new ways that EAR can help train several prior reports that have helped shape NSF the next generation of Earth scientists, support activities in Earth science research. Prior to 1983, young investigators, and increase the participa- EAR directed all of its funds to individual investigators tion of underrepresented groups in the field. through core research programs. Pursuing the recom- mendations of Opportunities for Research in the Geological Sciences2 and Research Briefings,3 EAR created a variety EAR is part of NSF’s Directorate for Geosciences (GEO), 1 which also comprises the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS) and Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE). Earth 2 NRC, 1983, Opportunities for Research in the Geological Sciences, science involves the part of geosciences that addresses Earth’s solid National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 95 pp. surface, crust, mantle, and core, including interactions between the 3 NRC, 1983, Research Briefings 1983, National Academy Press, solid Earth and the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Washington, D.C., 99 pp. vii
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viii PREFACE of cross-disciplinary programs, including Instrumen- workshop reports and white papers (see Appendix A) tation and Facilities and Continental Dynamics. In by various EAR research communities. The latter com- 1993 the NRC report Solid-Earth Sciences and Society4 munity efforts have been strongly encouraged by EAR documented progress in Earth science, its technology program managers and have resulted in an unprec- drivers, the status of its constituent disciplines, a host edented number of current, thoughtful, and detailed of significant unsolved problems, and many outstand- summaries of scientific opportunities spanning EAR ing research opportunities. It also described the fun- activities, some with moderate levels of prioritization. damental importance of Earth science in a globalized, Given the breadth of the task assigned to this high-technology society. In 2001 the influential NRC NROES committee and the huge prior investment report Basic Research Opportunities in Earth Science5 in community planning conducted by many groups, (BROES) articulated emerging research frontiers in the committee did not convene any additional sym- (1) Critical Zone studies, (2) geobiology, (3) Earth posia or workshops, preferring to draw largely on the and planetary materials, (4) continental investigations, extensive community consensus documents that had (5) studies of Earth’s deep interior, and (6) planetary been recently produced. Not all research areas, notably science, all framed in a context of the societal relevance geochemistry and structural geology, have prepared of pursuing basic research in Earth science. NSF and disciplinary scientific vision or “Grand Challenge” EAR acted on several of the key recommendations in documents, and particular efforts were made to solicit the BROES report, notably reorganizing the divisional input from a cross section of researchers in such fields. structure, investing significant resources in shallow The committee also requested feedback on the follow- Earth dynamical and hydrological systems, critical ing topics from department heads at universities and zone observatories, and geobiology, and pursuing the colleges, professional societies, and federal agencies EarthScope Major Research Equipment and Facilities with a significant Earth science component: Construction initiative. The BROES report extensively documented the value of pursuing basic research in • the 10-year outlook for the Earth sciences, Earth science; the arguments have only strengthened including linkages with other disciplines; with time as issues of natural resources, natural hazards, • the scale of activities suitable for conducting geoscience engineering, stewardship of the environ- this science, including the roles of individual ment, and terrestrial surveillance for national security investigators, major facilities, and “system-level” have repeatedly been foci of political and societal dis- research; and cussion and action throughout the past decade. • the facilities and infrastructure needed to sup- A significant difference between the context of the port these research activities. 2001 BROES report and this 2011 NROES report is the presently improved organizational structure Program managers in federal agencies with major of EAR, with Deep Earth Processes and Surface Earth science programs—NSF, U.S. Geological Survey, Earth Processes sections that are now better suited to U.S. Department of Energy, and National Aeronautics addressing evolving research opportunities in Earth and Space Administration—also provided program- science. Therefore, the goal of this report is not a major matic information and perspectives on future research redefining of existing programs to exploit research directions and agency interactions. The names of opportunities. Rather, it builds on existing programs survey respondents and other individuals consulted to support geosystem research efforts of particular by the committee are listed in Appendix B. Many of promise. Another important change of context is the the conclusions and recommendations reached by the degree to which disciplinary and interdisciplinary sci- committee reflect ideas articulated in the thoughtful ence planning efforts have recently been summarized in contributions by numerous members of the geosciences community. Finally, the committee expresses its grati- tude to the NRC study director, Mark Lange, for his 4 NRC, 1993, Solid-Earth Sciences and Society, National Academy considerable efforts in bringing the committee together Press, Washington, D.C., 346 pp. 5 N RC, 2001, B asic Research Opportunities in Earth Science, and editing its report and to NRC staff members Jason National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 168 pp.
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ix PREFACE Ortego and Courtney Gibbs, who assisted the com- mittee extensively with website development, docu- ment tracking and assembly, note taking, and meeting logistics. Thorne Lay Chair
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Acknowledgments T his report has been reviewed in draft form by Kip Hodges, Arizona State University, Phoenix individuals chosen for their diverse perspec- George Hornberger, Vanderbilt University, tives and technical expertise, in accordance Nashville, Tennessee with procedures approved by the National Research David Mohrig, University of Texas at Austin Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of Joan Oltman-Shay, Northwest Research this independent review is to provide candid and criti- Associates, Redmond, Washington cal comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure Although the reviewers listed above provided many that the report meets institutional standards for objec- constructive comments and suggestions, they were not tivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. asked to endorse—nor did they see—the final draft of The review comments and draft manuscript remain the report before its release. The review of this report confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative was overseen by Raymond A. Price, Queen’s Univer- process. We thank the following individuals for their sity. Appointed by the Division on Earth and Life participation in the review of this report: Studies, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of the report was carried Gregory Beroza, Stanford University, Palo Alto, out in accordance with institutional procedures and California that all review comments were carefully considered. Thure Cerling, University of Utah, Salt Lake City Responsibility for the final content of this report rests Marc Hirschmann, University of Minnesota, entirely with the authoring committee and the National Morris Research Council. xi
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Contents SUMMARY 1 1 EARTH SCIENCES IN THE 21ST CENTURY 7 Funding Trends in the Earth Sciences, 8 The Committee’s Approach, 8 2 NEW RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES IN THE EARTH SCIENCES 13 The Early Earth, 13 Thermo-Chemical Internal Dynamics and Volatile Distribution, 21 Faulting and Deformation Processes, 29 Interactions among Climate, Surface Processes, Tectonics, and Deep Earth Processes, 37 Co-evolution of Life, Environment, and Climate, 44 Coupled Hydrogeomorphic-Ecosystem Response to Natural and Anthropogenic Change, 53 Biogeochemical and Water Cycles in Terrestrial Environments and Impacts of Global Change, 60 Recent Advances in Geochronology, 67 3 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 71 Long-Term Investigator-Driven Science, 71 The Early Earth, 72 Thermo-Chemical Internal Dynamics and Volatile Distribution, 73 Faulting and Deformation Processes, 75 Interactions Among Climate, Surface Processes, Tectonics, and Deep Earth Processes, 76 Co-evolution of Life, Environment, and Climate, 77 Coupled Hydrogeomorphic-Ecosystem Response to Natural and Anthropogenic Change, 79 Biogeochemical and Water Cycles in Terrestrial Environments and Impacts of Global Change, 80 Facilities for Geochronology, 81 xiii
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xiv CONTENTS Interagency and International Partnerships and Coordination, 82 Training the Next Generation and Diversifying the Researcher Community, 83 REFERENCES 87 APPENDIXES A List of Background Materials 99 B List of Contributors 103 C Committee and Staff Biographies 113