• while acknowledging the contribution of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in assembling and communicating compacted climatic databases, noted that a long-term effort was still required to realize the full potential of past climate studies.

  • The NRC report Meeting the Challenge of Climate (NRC, 1982) stressed the need for:

    • specialized and localized information in probabilistic form;

    • easy access to data at several levels of summarization or aggregation;

    • usable composite measures or indices tailored to applications;

    • non-standard data;

    • the importance of consistent, long-term data; and

    • the utility of data collected for one purpose to totally different or unexpected applications.

  • The NRC report Atmospheric Climatic Data: Problems and Promises (NRC, 1986a) noted that:

    • climate is an inherently imprecise and open-ended concept;

    • demand is growing for comparative historic climate data; and

    • extremely long record sets are needed for analysis of trends and extreme climatic values.

  • The NRC report The National Climate Program: Early Achievements and Future Directions (NRC, 1986b) found that:

    • “there is a continuing need for the traditional long-term climate data archival programs that should incorporate the optimum mix of manuscript, digital, microform storage media;” and

    • “technological change—the development of inexpensive computer and communications systems have [will] greatly increased [increase] the capability to handle data needed for climate services.”

That report addressed many (then) future needs, including expanded surface and space data collection networks and data management procedures.

  • The NRC Committee on Geophysical Data issued a report (NRC, 1988) noting nearly identical views on geophysical data as those discussed above by NRC panels on climatic data.

  • Issued in 1988 by NOAA, The National Climate Program, Five-Year Plan, 1989-1993, stressed the need for:

    • “global data collection, monitoring, and analysis activities to provide reliable, useful and readily available information on a continuing basis;” and

    • “systems for the management and active dissemination of climatological data, information and assessments, including mechanisms for consultation with current and potential users.”

Finally, the panel's report is consistent with the U.S. Policy Statements for Global Change Research (US-GCRP, 1991).

The panel fully endorses those excerpts from prior study groups selected for mention above, and believes that climatic data are a national resource that will serve many research and strategic needs in future centuries. Decisions made today on long-term archiving of these data will have a significant impact on national policies in the future, both long-term and short-term.

The federal government should articulate clearly an integrated national policy covering its obligations and limitations in the retention and archiving of weather, climate, and other atmospheric data. Indeed, the handling of all earth science data must be seriously examined from a broad, long-term perspective to assure sensible retention and data management and retention.


Atmospheric sciences data sets are diverse. They therefore present many problems for archiving and later interpretation. Some data sets on the atmosphere stand out as being among the largest in any scientific discipline, particularly those sets that come from remote sensing by satellite or radars. Many of the data sets consist of contributions from thousands of individuals all over the world, and the provenance of those data is not always well known. Many of the data sets span decades and some span more than a century, with accompanying problems due to lack of homogeneity in measurement techniques and sampling strategies. Some data sets are derived from more basic ones with the expenditure of great effort. The data sets include digital information (in both written and electronic form), graphical records, and verbal descriptions. The records exist as ink on paper, punched paper, film (including microforms), magnetic tape of many types (including videotape), magnetic disk, and digital optical media (including CD-ROM).

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