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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade 11 Findings and Recommendations The National Reseach Council's (NRC) Committee on Global Change Research (CGCR) is charged with providing scientific advice to the federal government on how the United States should execute global change research. The present report addresses this task and the challenge of defining a new strategy for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) by identifying and considering the pivotal unanswered Scientific Questions in six fields: ecosystems, seasonal to interannual climate change, decadal to centennial climate change, atmospheric chemistry, paleoclimate, and human dimensions of global change. For each field the committee discusses the character of the scientific problems; presents case studies associated with specific relevant transitions in our scientific understanding of the Earth system; defines the primary unanswered scientific questions; critically reviews lessons learned in the course of achieving scientific transitions; and extracts from the analysis a set of research imperatives that, together with the corresponding critical unanswered scientific questions address fundamental needs to know in health, public policy, economics, international relations, and national leadership. Observational priorities flow from the identified Research Imperatives and Scientific Questions, as do the required data and information systems to manage these observations as well as some of the fundamental modeling issues that must be addressed to link the observations with the questions. RESEARCH IMPERATIVES AND SCIENTIFIC QUESTIONS—DRIVERS OF OBSERVATIONS AND RESEARCH The Research Imperatives, which were reviewed by the committee in significant detail, provide the foundation for the findings and recommendations regard-
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade ing actions needed to shape and implement the USGCRP over the coming decade. The Research Imperatives also set the direction and the metric to measure progress within the program. Finding 1.1: Consideration of the identified Research Imperatives, case studies, and lessons extracted from two decades of research leads to the finding that vital improvements are possible in the execution of global change research. A large number of the most important advances in understanding the Earth system and in applying the findings to key policy questions have emerged from innovative combinations of individuals, observations, and modeling that attack specific questions. For example, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation/Tropical Oceans and Global Atmosphere program laid the groundwork for operational predictions to support natural resource decisions, and the stratospheric ozone research programs set the scientific foundation for the Montreal Protocol. Fundamental scientific progress in the future will hinge on critical decisions about the character of the scientific program and the associated essential observations. Resources have been most effectively utilized when applied in ways that strengthen the link between primary unanswered questions and the nation's intellectual resources, that improve the potential for technical innovations, that provide educational and public outreach opportunities, and that serve the vital information needs of decision makers. Finding 1.2: Within each of the six topical themes identified in this report to further understanding of global change, the specific central scientific issues listed below must be confronted. Finding 1.2a: Within Changes in the Biology and Biogeochemistry of Ecosystems, the following central scientific issues must be confronted: Understand the relationships between land surface processes, including land-cover change, climate, and weather prediction. Understand the changing global biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nitrogen. Understand the responses of ecosystems to multiple stresses. Understand the relationship between changing biological diversity and ecosystem function. Finding 1.2b: Within Changes in the Climate System on Seasonal to Interannual Timescales, the following central scientific issues must be confronted: Maintain and improve the capability to make ENSO predictions. Define global seasonal to interannual variability, especially the global monsoon systems, and understand the extent to which it is predictable.
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade Understand the roles of land surface energy and water exchanges and their correct representation in models for seasonal to interannual prediction. Improve the ability to interpret the effects of large-scale climate variability on a local scale (downscale). Understand the seasonal to interannual factors that influence land surface manifestations of the hydrological cycle, such as floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events. Finding 1.2c: Within Changes in the Climate System on Decadal to Century Timescales, the following central scientific issues must be confronted: Understand patterns in the climate system. Natural Climate: Improve knowledge of decadal to century-scale natural climate patterns, their distributions in time and space, their optimal characterization, mechanistic controls, feedbacks, and sensitivities, including their interactions with, and responses to, anthropogenic climate change. Paleorecord: Extend the climate record back through data archeology and paleoclimate records for time series long enough to provide researchers a better database with which to analyze decadal to century-scale patterns. Specifically, achieve a better understanding of the nature and range of natural variability over these timescales. Long-Term Observational System: Ensure the existence of a long-term observing system for a more definitive observational foundation to evaluate decadal to century-scale variability and change. Ensure that the system includes observations of key state variables as well as external forcings. Address the issues of those individual climate components whose resolution will most efficiently and significantly advance our understanding of decadal to century (dec-cen) climate variability. Finding 1.2d: Within Changes in the Chemistry of the Atmosphere, the following central scientific issues must be confronted: Define and predict secular trends in the intensity of ultraviolet exposure that the Earth receives by documenting the concentrations and distributions of stratospheric ozone and the key chemical species that control its catalytic destruction and by elucidating the coupling between chemistry, dynamics, and radiation in the stratosphere and upper troposphere. Determine the fluxes of greenhouse gases into and out of the Earth 's subsystems and the mechanisms responsible for the exchange and distribution between and within those subsystems.
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade Develop the observational and computational tools and strategies that policy makers need to effectively manage ozone pollution; elucidate the processes that control and the relationships that exist among ozone precursor species, tropospheric ozone, and the oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere. Improve atmospheric models to better represent current atmospheric oxidants and predict the atmosphere's response to future levels of pollutants. Document the chemical and physical properties of atmospheric aerosols; elucidate the chemical and physical processes that determine the size, concentration, and chemical characteristics of atmospheric aerosols. Document the rates of chemical exchange between the atmosphere and ecosystems of critical economic and environmental import; elucidate the extent to which interactions between the atmosphere and biosphere are influenced by changing concentrations and depositions of harmful and beneficial compounds. Finding 1.2e: Within Paleoclimate the following central scientific issues must be confronted: Document how the global climate and the Earth's environment have changed in the past and determine the factors that caused those changes. Explore how this knowledge can be applied to understand future climate and environmental change. Document how the activities of humans have affected the global environment and climate and determine how those effects can be differentiated from natural variability. Describe what constitutes the natural environment prior to human intervention. Explore the question of what the natural limits are of the global environment and determine how changes in the boundary conditions for this natural environment are manifested. Document the important forcing factors that are and will control climate change on societal timescales (season to century). Determine what the causes were of the rapid climate change events and rapid transitions in climate state. Finding 1.2f: Within Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, the following central scientific issues must be confronted: Understand the major human causes of changes in the global environment and how they vary over time, across space, and between economic sectors and social groups. Determine the human consequences of global environmental change on key life-support systems, such as water, health, energy, natural ecosys-
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade tems, and agriculture, and determine the impacts on economic and social systems. Develop a scientific foundation for evaluating the potential human responses to global change, their effectiveness and cost, and the basis for deciding among the range of options. Understand the underlying social processes or driving forces behind the human relationship to the global environment, such as human attitudes and behavior, population dynamics, institutions, and economic and technological transformations. Recommendation 1: Research priorities and resource allocations must be reassessed, with the objective of tying available resources directly to the major unanswered Scientific Questions identified in this report. The USGCRP 's research strategy should be centered on sharply defined and effectively executed programs and should recognize the essential need for focused observations, both space-based and in situ, to test scientific hypotheses and document change. An additional finding flows from the report and Recommendation 1. Finding 1.3: In spite of the initial efforts to encompass a broad view of the Earth system, certain critical research areas continue to suffer either because their relationship with global change research was not clearly articulated initially or because they cross over disciplinary boundaries of environmental science. For example, the important issue of biodiversity is not adequately addressed by the USGCRP. Biodiversity research is often quite germane to global change research (and vice versa)—for example, see Finding 1.2a—and there are important interactions between global change and biodiversity loss, but biodiversity research also has major components and activities that are beyond the scope of global change research. The U.S. science community has been unable to resolve related boundary issues. Because the CGCR is recommending a sharpening of focus for the USGCRP, the issue of addressing more fully the scientific issues posed by biodiversity is more likely to be left unresolved unless there is a deliberate effort by the USGCRP agencies and the NRC to help resolve this problem. The emergence of the DIVERSITAS program demonstrates that it is beginning to be addressed better internationally. Crosscutting Themes Two common linked themes emerge clearly from the identified Research Imperatives, Scientific Questions, and associated observations:
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade the water and carbon cycles, and issues of climate prediction, including the role of and impacts on human and generational (30-year) timescales and at spatial scales useful for critical public and private policy decisions. The scientific strength of the case linking release of greenhouse gases to climate change is central to any considered action and must be commensurate with the economic impact of any proposed solution. Acceptance of the evidence by policy makers and their constituent communities is a key component of public policy negotiations. This acceptance will emerge not merely from refinement of assessment models but rather from carefully executed observations of the physical, chemical, and biological variables that track the actual state of the Earth. It is the accumulation of evidence from a body of studies, adhering to strict scientific standards and focus, that will provide a basis for decisions, not the results of a single study. Knowledge of the global sources and sinks of carbon that are associated with changes in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and carbon monoxide is part of the foundation for understanding the physical, chemical, and biological processes that control our surroundings and for understanding the fractional impact of any industrial or agricultural input to that natural system.a Similarly, water is at the heart of both the causes and the effects of climate change. It is essential to establish rates of and possible changes in precipitation, evapotranspiration, and cloud water content (both liquid and ice). Additionally, better time series measurements are needed for water runoff, river flow, and, most importantly, the quantities of water involved in various human uses. This crosscutting initiative can clearly build on the progress made by the Global Energy and Water Experiment of the World Climate Research Program and the Biospheric Aspects of the Hydrological Cycle project of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme. Elucidating the climate system and possible anthropogenic changes, in addition to natural variability, is a paramount goal in these studies. A satisfactory demonstration of secular trends in the Earth 's climate system, for example, requires analysis at the forefront of science and statistical analysis. Model predictions have been available for decades, but a clear demonstration of their validity, a demonstration that will convince a reasoned critic on cross examination, is not yet available. This is not in itself either a statement of failure or a significant surprise. Rather, it is a measure of the intellectual depth of the problem and the need for carefully orchestrated, long-term observations. a Carbon monoxide is not a greenhouse gas, but it is involved with the chemistry of other greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane).
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade Finding 2.1: Key crosscutting scientific themes that emerge from the total set of Research Imperatives and Scientific Questions must be addressed in an integrated fashion. Finding 2.2: International negotiations will hinge on the strength of the evidence defining global-scale sources and sinks of carbon. Innovative approaches exist that can provide vital knowledge to define current carbon sources and sinks. Water is at the heart of climate change and the impacts of climate variability. Any assessment of climate change, its causes and impacts, must be based on significantly better observations of the water cycle. Observing, documenting, and understanding climate change are central responsibilities of the U.S. effort in global change research. Predictive capabilities must be developed on temporal and spatial scales particularly relevant to the coming generation of citizens. Scientific focus, continuity, and insight are critical ingredients in this pursuit. An innovative combination of observations is required on all timescales: seasonal to interannual and decadal to centennial. Recommendation 2: Following on Recommendation 1, the national strategy of the USGCRP for Earth observations must be restructured and must be driven by the key unanswered Scientific Questions. Observational capability must be developed to support research addressing critical common themes within these scientific elements. Foremost among these themes are the following: understanding the Earth's carbon and water cycles; characterizing climate change, including the human dimensions component, on temporal and spatial scales relevant to human activities; and elucidating the links among radiation, dynamics, chemistry, and climate. The USGCRP must develop an approach that satisfies a number of critical objectives: Improves the ability to establish accurate time series of spatially resolved flux measurements of carbon species and their isotopes and associated observations of molecular oxygen. Clarifies the distribution and fates of water.
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade Establishes the spatial and temporal distribution of the phases of water in the middle to upper troposphere. Defines climate change on temporal and spatial scales relevant to current and emerging issues of public policy. Provides the capability to resolve sharp nonlinearities within the Earth system that are triggered by chemical composition changes, which in turn lead to phase changes that markedly affect the transport of infrared radiation. A Coherent Observational Strategy The Research Imperatives help identify preliminary emphases for required observations and data systems and focus the needed calculations and models; the Scientific Questions provide the specificity required to establish what must be done to advance our understanding. The required observations (whether relating to long-term trends in radiance to space, fluxes of carbon-containing molecules into and out of a particular ecosystem, chemical and isotopic composition in ice core samples, depth profiles of temperature and salinity, rate-limiting free radical concentrations as a function of nitrogen loading, or other phenomena) are outlined, where possible, with respect to accuracy, spatial and temporal resolution, required simultaneous measurements, and other defining characteristics so that each measurement ensemble is formulated to answer a specific primary Scientific Question. The importance of accuracy, continuity, calibration, documentation, and technological innovation in observations for long-term trend analysis of global change cannot be overemphasized. A central tenet of the Committee's analysis is the necessity for the continuity of key global change observations.b For example, with regard to the fundamental forcing parameters of global change, such as solar radiation and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, and response parameters, such as surface temperature and global cloudiness, discontinuities in the climate record resulting from instrument changes or drift have led to questions about the very nature of global change. Instrument or technology changes per se are not the problem; the problem is inadequate cross-calibration between instruments, and this inadequacy usually results from the absence of commitment to observational continuity. The Research Imperatives identified in this report express guiding considerations for the USGCRP to fulfill its responsibility for observing, documenting, and understanding global environmental change. The critical nature of high-quality observations to the scientific and public policy issues posed by global environmental change places demands and con- b We note again that the importance is in the continuity of the measurement and not in the continuity of the technology or the exact instrument.
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade straints on whatever path a USGCRP observational strategy attempts to chart; however, a specific, well-considered, and realistic strategy, including costs and schedule, for obtaining the observations of past, present, and future expressions of global environmental change is essential. The strategy will need an effective institutional mechanism for implementation. As an example, no agency currently has the responsibility for carrying out or coordinating a comprehensive program of climate observations. There are many different scientific demands for observations for exploratory surveys, hypothesis testing in coordinated process studies, repetitive analysis-forecast cycle research, documentation of long-term changes, calibration and validation of measurements, and applications or modifications of measurements that may be used primarily for purposes other than global change research. These different demands or applications must be taken into consideration in developing a coherent observational strategy. Operational demands are uniquely linked to long-term measurements and therefore are vital for obtaining them. In particular, the satellite and in situ measurements taken as part of the weather-observing system are critical to the future of the climate record. Development of the next generation of weather satellites (e.g., the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, NPOESS) should be undertaken with the climate record and other research on relevant global change Scientific Questions clearly in mind. Documentation of decadal and longer-term change raises other basic issues of program management and decision structure. Because adequate characterization of higher-frequency variability is fundamental to this documentation, both to avoid aliasing and to help in attributing causes, there is major overlap between long-term observations and measurements that are necessary on the daily and interannual timescales. However, as the timescale of the phenomenon studied becomes longer, two other considerations become increasingly important for adequate management of the research enterprise. First, the need for comparability of measurements made at different times and places requires that high priority be given to thorough instrument calibration and measurement system validation, including the inevitable changes in technologies and observing networks. Because action is required now but all the specific Scientific Questions may not come into focus for many years, it is necessary to invoke the concept of stewardship to justify this effort. Stewardship involves doing what is reasonable and prudent to safeguard the interests of future generations, who are not able to argue their case for the data and information. Second, to put even reliably observed interdecadal changes in context, it is necessary to invoke records of much longer duration than available based on modern instrumentation. Thus, the strategy must include the systematic search for, and recovery and exploitation of, naturally existing proxies for such instrumentation, proxies that reveal the past history over hundreds and thousands of years with adequate fidelity and temporal resolution. This activity would appear
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade to have little relationship to what is conventionally known as an observing system. Moreover, both calibration of such proxy records in terms of modern instrumental measurements and execution of process studies aimed at their interpretation are less glamorous tasks than launching satellites to observe fine details over the next decade or so. Nevertheless, these less glamorous activities may yield much more useable information for the foreseeable future about the natural processes leading to environmental fluctuations on such timescales and hence about the modifications induced by human activities. A coherent observational strategy is needed that builds on the identified Research Imperatives and Scientific Questions and on available national and international space and in situ networks. The USGCRP must find a mechanism to resolve the agency boundary issues that will surely arise in developing and especially in implementing a coherent observational strategy. The United States and its international partners must find a way to deal effectively with the international dimensions of an overall observational system. In sum, what is needed is not a vast new program but rather attention to coordinating, simplifying, and focusing current and planned observing systems. This work requires the sustained attention of the scientific community and the farsightedness of government to ensure the survival of key observational records. A particular challenge will be the in situ systems. Finding 3.1: Although extensive planning has been done for space-based systems to observe global climate, the oceans, and the land, a comprehensive space-based system does not yet exist in practice. It is a promise that remains unfulfilled. Moreover, it is not clear that current planning activities will lead to such a system. Central issues about which nation (or nations) will provide which observations, for how long, and at what spatial and temporal scales (and with what assurance) remain unresolved. The situation for in situ observations across the full global environmental change agenda is in far worse shape. Finding 3.2: The connectivity of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 's (NOAA) NPOESS program with the National Aeronautics and Apace Administration 's (NASA) Earth Observing System (EOS) in Mission to Planet Earth is an important and not yet adequately resolved issue. The adequacy of the NPOESS measurements to meet the demands of global change research remains in question. In addition, it is essential to maintain those stations of the existing in situ weather observation network of the United States and around the world that carry the climate record from past decades. The current and future state of this system is unclear. Although the committee recognizes the danger in recommending another study or planning exercise, a path to a more realizable, logical, focused, and robust observing system must be found. The USGCRP must adopt multiple observational approaches, recognizing that no single approach can guarantee conti-
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade nuity and accuracy of measurements and that independent checks are necessary to obtain verifiable results. Recommendation 3: The strategy for obtaining long-term observations designed to define the magnitude and character of Earth system change must be reassessed. Priority must be given to identifying and obtaining accurate data on key variables carefully selected in view of the most critical Scientific Questions and practically feasible measurement capabilities. The strategy must take the following into account: The fact that observing systems have been designed for purposes other than long-term accuracy and that this has undercut the long-term calibration needed for scientific understanding of global change The overall balance and innovative treatment of observations: the balance between space-based observations and in situ observations, between operational and research observational systems, and between observations and analysis The gaps between research and operational observational systems that could threaten needed long-term records The end-to-end responsibility and the principal investigator mode for research observational systems. Given the constraints on the budget system and the needs of the research community for observations from space, the strategy appears to involve three components: Within NASA, build focused, less costly missions on the solid and broad foundation set by EOS. Within NOAA, build scientifically sound observational missions for monitoring global change on the foundation set by EOS; these missions must meet NOAA's operational requirements. Within the USGCRP, increase the funding for in situ observational programs and the research and analysis links necessary for the related essential science. The first component should be possible within the scope of current budget projections. The second component may require additional funds for NOAA; it may require modification of NOAA's mission (e.g., a strong commitment by NOAA to addressing global environmental change as part of its mission), and it definitely requires significantly improved coordination between NOAA and
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade NASA. The third component requires both new funds, which have begun to appear in the proposed fiscal year 1999 budget and sharper focus in using existing funds. With regard to the second component above, it is crucial to recognize that, even if NOAA were to assume prime responsibility for the USGCRP space-based monitoring program, NASA would continue to have significant data-processing responsibilities including reanalyses. Finally, the issue of the U.S. Department of Defense's role and influence on the observational space-based monitoring program must be addressed by USGCRP. Technical Innovation Innovation is essential for scientific progress in global change research. Many needs illuminate the importance of innovation, foresight, and testability in this field: Obtaining simultaneous high-resolution observations with high sensitivity of the sea surface and the marine boundary layer. Determining fluxes of carbon species into and out of broad categories of ecosystems. Establishing patterns of land use and the state of vegetation. Observing the vertical profiles of temperature, salinity, velocity, and tracer concentrations in the oceans. Establishing the distribution of water in the atmosphere and the fluxes of water between the Earth's surface and the Earth's atmosphere. Obtaining isotopic composition of water in the middle/upper troposphere. Determining systematically the concentrations and concentration derivatives of catalytically active free radicals at altitudes from the sea surface to the middle stratosphere. Obtaining observations along Lagrangian trajectories to dissect aerosol formation processes. There is also a fundamental problem in global change observations that can be attacked only by technical innovation. The ocean-atmosphere-biosphere is seriously undersampled—mechanistically, spatially, and temporally. Finding 4: The capability, availability, cost, and character of observational platforms are critical considerations in global change research strategies. Observational platforms are the foundation of the nation's research efforts, and the design of these platforms can profit significantly from the lessons learned in carrying out global change research to date. Consideration of these lessons demonstrates that the successful execution of global change research is closely tied to technical innovation. Investment in observational platforms to date has focused on a small number of large satellites, a limited number of marginally funded
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade aircraft, a small number of ocean buoy systems, and a sparse network of ground-based efforts. This balance among the space-based, airborne, and ground-based observations does not reflect the spectrum of requirements that the Research Imperatives demand. Indeed, space-based observations and their associated data management systems dominate the resources of the USGCRP, a trend that impinges on both the research and analysis support and the in situ observational networks. Recommendation 4: The restructured national strategy for Earth observations must more aggressively employ technical innovation. Because of fixed budgets, resources should be reallocated from the large, amalgamated space-based approach to a more agile, responsive ensemble of observations. This goal will require carefully placed investments in new technologies. Technological advances in small satellite systems, robotics, micro-electronics, and materials must be exploited to establish a sound balance between in situ ground/ocean-based, airborne, and space-based observations. Innovative treatment of the nation's research aircraft capability, piloted and robotic, is strongly advised. The research and analysis (R&A) component of the national research effort must be recognized for its central contributions to science, public policy, and understanding human dimensions issues. Data Systems The issue of data systems and the design of those systems are closely tied to the character of the observational strategy and the associated theoretical and modeling effort used to address the important questions. A key common component of major scientific advances has been the focus of responsibility: a specific principal investigator (or close collaboration of coinvestigators) must bear the end-to-end responsibility that connects the posing of a scientific question to the execution of an observational strategy with associated theoretical analysis through to the publication of scientific conclusions in the refereed scientific literature. A plan in which committees and/or agencies are assigned responsibility for data quality and distribution in a manner that breaks the end-to-end responsibility of the principal investigator is almost invariably critically flawed. The scientific method depends on a strategic combination of observations, selected from an array of possible observables, that can dissect a problem to the satisfaction of peer critics. This achievement demands specific choices, and it demands focused responsibility. The NRC's Committee on Data Management and Computation
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade has already shown that effective data systems require continuous and widespread involvement of the science team. Connected with the fundamental role of the investigator in assuring appropriateness and quality of observations is the rapidly advancing state of information systems, which can allow distribution of activities in time and space while preserving the essential responsibility of the scientific investigator. It is important, in considering the scientist and the information system, to consider the nature of the future of this interaction. The evolution of information systems will likely be characterized by rapid, dramatic shifts, as much as by any smooth, “predictable ” process. In an industry that shows a quadrupling of capability every three years, there are no stationary solutions. Stability and success can be attained only by development of a solid, well-grounded information model that describes how the pieces and subsystems, including as they develop, are related to each other. This model should be based on science that incorporates a database-driven approach; the technical implementation can then be more flexible and take advantage of technological advances in a more rational manner. To date, the concentration has been on processing and storage, but the network infrastructure and the software are undergoing fundamental changes. Although the scientific community has logically paid attention mainly to such government and academic backbones as vBNSc and Internet-2, the more important shift is occurring in the widespread distribution of high bandwidths (1 to 10 Mbps) to homes. This shift has an implication for the USGCRP. First, more home users will likely be searching NASA, NOAA, and other global change archives for interesting or educational material. The networking capabilities of these more informal users will be competing with scientists for access to the archives. Second, these users will likely demand different types of products than scientists. This probable situation needs to be recognized. The National Science Foundation's Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence solicitation in the fiscal year 1999 budget is an example of government-encouraged partnerships with the private sector that may accelerate this trend. Just as the Internet has changed the model of how we conduct research, so these new distribution channels will change the model again. Ultimately, the USGCRP is about information. Information must flow within the program and also to the broad community of users. The subject of the program's research demands that information flow effectively to the public at large as well as to researchers. This is an important issue, and it should not be ignored by either the community of scientists engaged in global change research or the agencies that support this research with public funds. c The vBNS is a nationwide network that supports high performance, high-bandwidth research applications. It was launched in 1995 and is the product of a cooperative agreement between MCI and the National Science Foundation.
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade Finding 5: Data systems must be agile and responsive to technology developments and to emerging techniques for data handling, analysis, and transfer. Data systems must also maintain scientific discipline and focused responsibility, so that the link between scientific question and clear scientific conclusion is not broken. An appropriate system is one that charges the government with initiallevel processing and long-term archiving and the scientific community with producing the scientific products by the most effective means possible. Recommendation 5: The USGCRP must revitalize its strategy for the data systems used for global change research. Emphasis must be placed on designing and selecting flexible and innovative systems that appropriately reflect focused responsibility for data character, that provide open access to the scientific community and the public, and that rapidly evolve to exploit technological developments. In particular, the USGCRP must closely monitor the progress of the innovative “federation ” concept for data systems.d As suggested in the last finding, it is likely that the government will continue to provide the primary long-term archive for space and Earth science data, but it must also maintain the capability to enable long-term reprocessing of these time series; archiving must not continue to be a burial ground for data. With more rapid distribution channels and more powerful archive and processing systems at the fringes, perhaps one part of the government's role is to provide an online repository of data recipes rather than fully processed data sets. This service would enable more customized processing, with the government serving as the warehouse for raw materials and generating specific products on demand. Finally, changes in technology will allow and force us to rethink our strategy often; any strategy must accommodate and encourage this eventuality.e Models and Looking into the Future As mandated by its implementing legislation, the USGCRP seeks to provide useful information to the policy process. A direct implication of this responsibility is that the information must be scientifically credible, that it be of genuine interest and value, and that, to the greatest extent possible, it provide lead time for d The “federation” concept was recommended in a 1995 National Academy of Sciences review of the USGCRP and refers to a federation of partners selected through a competitive process open to all. e The committee benefited from advice from several individuals in the area of data systems and their evolution. Professor Mark Abbott was particularly constructive, and a white paper by him was most useful.
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade policy action. The last requirement implies provision of some prognostic information. This requirement does not necessarily entail a “prediction, ” but it does raise the same concerns as any prediction or predictive process. These concerns revolve around general, and not necessarily scientific, issues such as usefulness, trustworthiness, and credibility of the information. In general, a model or a set of models will often be at the center of the predictive process. Finding 6: The policy issues that confront global change research, like the Scientific Questions, are serious, particularly with regard to their impact on humans. These issues will rely on models of exceedingly complex behaviors over a significant range of scales in space and time. Significant challenges face the scientific community in the form of many and various modeling issues, from initialization to validation. Important, unsolved, and difficult problems remain for formulating useful prognostic models over a range of topics in human dimensions research. Advances in developing and most importantly in testing and evaluating models are needed. The United States is no longer in the lead in this critical field. The fact that the United States is no longer in the lead in applying global models is not purely a statement of criticism. Strong scientific work, particularly in the area of modeling, has been advancing around the world. This is to be applauded. Global change research, particularly in the area of prognostic activities, requires a full suite of models to adequately bracket the complex problems that the USGCRP seeks to address. Thus, advances in modeling capabilities in other parts of the world are of significant benefit to the USGCRP. Testing adequately complex models is very computing intensive, and if computing resources are not adequate and available, then there is clearly the danger that the dynamical aspects of models will not be sufficiently understood and hence that the models will be misapplied. Currently, the potential exists that the advanced models built in the United States cannot (or will not) be adequately tested and properly applied to key problems, such as national and regional expressions of transient climate variability and change because of a lack of available computing resources. The United States must apply greater resources, particularly (but not exclusively) in the area of advanced computing machines. National boundaries should not influence where machines are purchased. Recommendation 6: The USGCRP must foster the development and application of models at the scales of time and space needed to understand and project the specific mechanisms controlling changes in the state of the Earth system, thus providing the information required to support important policy processes. The USGCRP must give increased emphasis to models that treat multiple stresses on systems; it must therefore secure adequate computing resources so that large scale, complex models can be rigorously tested under multiple forcings.
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade Models must be tested and evaluated with observations. This means that adequate observations and advanced computing resources must be available to adequately evaluate models and their potential utility for the public policy process. Consequently, there must be a greater commitment to advanced computing resources, as well as human resources, by the USGCRP to ensure that global modeling is achieved at spatial and temporal scales appropriate to the needs of the policy community and the private sector. As the USGCRP enters this second critical decade of its existence, the scientific challenges it faces are heightened by the need to understand and foreshadow the regional as well as other impacts of global environmental changes. The causes of global change are now also more complex, the need to understand the effects of multiple stresses are more apparent, and the likelihood of realizing significant near-term global reductions that would lead to stabilization of the forcing terms (such as greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere) before a doubling of the radiative effects are more remote. In short, the need for useful prognostic information will only increase in the future. In view of these considerations, the current circumstances within the USGCRP, and the current status of modeling and available computing resources to the global change scientific community, there must be a considerably expanded commitment of resources to modeling, particularly at the temporal and spatial scales needed by the policy community.
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GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE: Research Pathways for the Next Decade ANNEXES
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Representative terms from entire chapter: