Adequacy of Climate Observing Systems

Panel on Climate Observing Systems Status

Climate Research Committee

Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1999



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--> Adequacy of Climate Observing Systems Panel on Climate Observing Systems Status Climate Research Committee Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1999

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--> 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 competencies and with regard for appropriate balance. Support for this project was provided by the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under Contract No. 50-DKNA-7-90052. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA, USGCRP, or any of its sub-agencies. International Standard Book Number 0-309-06390-6 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW Box 285 Washington, D.C. 20055 800-624-6242 202-334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area) http://www.nap.edu COVER: Composite of weather observing systems. Photographs courtesy of NOAA. Copyright 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

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--> Panel on Climate Observing Systems Status THOMAS R. KARL (Chair), National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina ROBERT E. DICKINSON, University of Arizona, Tucson MAURICE BLACKMON, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado BERT BOLIN, University of Stockholm, Sweden JEFF DOZIER, University of California, Santa Barbara WILLIAM P. ELLIOTT, NOAA/Air Resources Laboratory, Silver Spring, Maryland JAMES GIRAYTYS, Certified Consulting Meteorologist, Winchester, Virginia RICHARD E. HALLGREN, American Meteorological Society, Washington, D.C. JAMES E. HANSEN, NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York SYDNEY LEVITUS, NOAA/National Oceanic Data Center, Silver Spring, Maryland GORDON MCBEAN, Environment Canada, Downsview, Ontario GERALD MEEHL, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado PHILIP E. MERILEES, Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, California ROBERTA BALSTAD MILLER, CIESIN, Columbia University, Palisades, New York ROBERT G. QUAYLE, NOAA/National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina S. ICHTIAQUE RASOOL, University of New Hampshire, Durham STEVEN W. RUNNING, University of Montana, Missoula EDWARD S. SARACHIK, University of Washington, Seattle WILLIAM H. SCHLESINGER, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina KARL E. TAYLOR, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California ANNE M. THOMPSON, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland Ex Officio Members W. LAWRENCE GATES, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California DOUGLAS G. MARTINSON, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York SOROOSH SOROOSHIAN, University of Arizona, Tucson PETER J. WEBSTER, University of Colorado, Boulder

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--> Staff LOWELL SMITH, Senior Program Officer (Until September 30, 1998) ELBERT W. FRIDAY, JR., Study Director (From October 1, 1998) DIANE GUSTAFSON, Administrative Assistant

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--> Climate Research Committee THOMAS R. KARL (Chair), National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina ROBERT E. DICKINSON, University of Arizona, Tucson MAURICE BLACKMON, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado BERT BOLIN, University of Stockholm, Sweden JEFF DOZIER, University of California, Santa Barbara JAMES GIRAYTYS, Certified Consulting Meteorologist, Winchester, Virginia JAMES E. HANSEN, NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York PHILIP E. MERILEES, Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, California ROBERTA BALSTAD MILLER, CIESIN, Columbia University, Palisades, New York S. ICHTIAQUE RASOOL, University of New Hampshire, Durham STEVEN W. RUNNING, University of Montana, Missoula WILLIAM H. SCHLESINGER, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina KARL E. TAYLOR, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California ANNE M. THOMPSON, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland Ex Officio Members W. LAWRENCE GATES, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California DOUGLAS G. MARTINSON, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia, University, Palisades, New York SOROOSH SOROOSHIAN, University of Arizona, Tucson PETER J. WEBSTER, University of Colorado, Boulder Staff PETER SCHULTZ, Program Officer TENECIA BROWN, Senior Program Assistant

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--> Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate ERIC J. BARRON (Co-chair), Pennsylvania State University, University Park JAMES R. MAHONEY (Co-chair), International Technology Corporation, Washington, D.C. SUSAN K. AVERY, CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder LANCE F. BOSART, State University of New York, Albany MARVIN A. GELLER, State University of New York, Stony Brook DONALD M. HUNTEN, University of Arizona, Tucson JOHN IMBRIE, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island CHARLES E. KOLB, Aerodyne Research, Inc., Billerica, Massachusetts THOMAS J. LENNON, WSI Corporation, Billerica, Massachusetts MARK R. SCHOEBERL, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland JOANNE SIMPSON, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland NIEN DAK SZE, Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts Staff ELBERT W. FRIDAY, JR., Director H. FRANK EDEN, Senior Program Officer (ending December 31, 1998) DAVID H. SLADE, Senior Program Officer LAURIE GELLER, Program Officer PETER SCHULTZ, Program Officer TENECIA BROWN, Senior Program Assistant CARTER FORD, Project Assistant DIANE GUSTAFSON, Administrative Assistant ROBIN MORRIS, Financial Associate

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--> Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources GEORGE M. HORNBERGER (Chair), University of Virginia, Charlottesville PATRICK R. ATKINS, Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania JERRY F. FRANKLIN, University of Washington, Seattle B. JOHN GARRICK, PLG, Inc., Newport Beach, California THOMAS E. GRAEDEL, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut DEBRA KNOPMAN, Progressive Foundation, Washington, D.C. KAI N. LEE, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts JUDITH E. McDOWELL, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts RICHARD A. MESERVE, Covington and Burling, Washington, D.C. HUGH C. MORRIS, Canadian Global Change Program, Delta, British Columbia RAYMOND A. PRICE, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario H. RONALD PULLIAM, University of Georgia, Athens THOMAS C. SCHELLING, University of Maryland, College Park VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida E-AN ZEN, University of Maryland, College Park MARY LOU ZOBACK, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California Staff ROBERT HAMILTON, Executive Director GREGORY SYMMES, Assistant Executive Director JEANETTE SPOON, Administrative Officer SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate MARQUITA SMITH, PC Analyst & Senior Project Assistant

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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. Bruce M. Alberts 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. William A. Wulf is the 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. Kenneth Shine 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 advising 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. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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--> Foreword There is nothing more precious to scientists than the measurements and observations required to confirm or contradict theories and hypotheses. No matter how fundamental the theory or hypothesis, observations are the building blocks of science. In the earth sciences, and in particular the climate sciences, there is a peculiar relation between the scientist and the data. Unlike many other sciences, where strict laboratory controls, or at least day-to-day scientific oversight of measurements is the rule, in order to detect changes in the Earth's climate and attribute these to specific causes, multivariate observations are required over long periods of time, on a global basis, and in a synoptic sense. Climate scientists focusing on this task must therefore rely on observations and data collected by a whole suite of observing systems operated by various countries. The instrumentation, observing practices, processing algorithms, and data archive methods used by these countries profoundly affect the progress of understanding climate change. Such a relationship to observations and data is nothing new to meteorologists. To help overcome this divorce between the scientist and their data, decades ago meteorologists developed the World Weather Watch program coordinated through the World Meteorological Organization. Its success has been a model of human cooperation and ingenuity. It has enabled meteorologists in forecast offices anywhere in the world to take advantage of our increased understanding of the atmospheric sciences and provide improved weather forecasts.

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--> Is an analogous system needed for the climate sciences? Are we making the measurements, collecting the data, and making it available in a way that both today's scientist, as well as tomorrow's, will be able to effectively increase our understanding of natural and human-induced climate change? The Panel on Climate Observing Systems Status would answer the latter question with an emphatic NO. Given the potential impact of anthropogenic climate change on our society and in a worst-case scenario a catastrophic change in climate, there is an urgent need for improving the record of performance. This report is an attempt to help illuminate the importance of multi-decadal climate monitoring. THOMAS R. KARL, CHAIR

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--> Acknowledgments This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the authors and the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The content of the review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Mark Abbott, Oregon State University Patrick Atkins, Aluminum Company of America Russ Davis, Scripps Institution of Oceanography Robert Frosch, Harvard University James Holton, University of Washington David Keeling, Scripps Institution of Oceanography Joanne Simpson, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research While the individuals listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, responsibility for the final content of this report rests solely with the authoring committee and the NRC.

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--> In addition, the following people contributed significantly to the deliberations of the panel and their efforts are greatly appreciated: Tom Carroll, National Weather Service, Office of Hydrology Ted Engman, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Andrew Fountain, Portland State University Paul Houser, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Jurate Landwehr, U.S. Geological Survey Dennis Lettenmaier, University of Washington Harry Lins, U.S. Geological Survey Dave Robinson, Rutgers University Jim Shuttleworth, University of Arizona Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research.

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--> Contents     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1 1   QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS   7 2   FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS   29 3   CONCLUDING REMARKS   33     REFERENCES   36     APPENDIX A Message from the 1997 Conference on the WCRP   41     APPENDIX B Framework Convention on Climate Change   42     APPENDIX C Statement of Task   44     APPENDIX D Letter to Thomas Karl   45     APPENDIX E Decision 14/CP.4   48     APPENDIX F Acronyms   51

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