Findings and Recommendations
PROGRAM-WIDE FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The past decade of research within the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) has produced remarkable improvements in our understanding of Earth system behavior and its interaction with human activities. We have gained valuable insights into the characteristics of a successful global change research program. These insights lead the Committee on Global Change Research to the following programmatic recommendations for the USGCRP.
The USGCRP must
- maintain a balanced program of space- and ground-based observations, laboratory- and field- based process research, information management, modeling, prediction, and assessment activities in which the interaction among these program elements is as important as the success of each;
- identify clearly the essential elements of the program, while recognizing the contributions of related programs and activities;
- ensure the development and successful implementation of integrated scientific plans across agency boundaries;
- maintain strong and effective linkages with international global change research and observation programs; and
- obtain timely guidance from the scientific community on priorities, program balance, and direction.
The USGCRP is making an effort in each of these dimensions; however, the committee is concerned that the current efforts and their effectiveness may not be adequate to the task.
The USGCRP must encompass numerous scientific disciplines and areas of activity. Critical aspects of the program cross both discipline and agency boundaries. Thus, interdisciplinary and interagency linkages are central to successful implementation of the program. The needed programmatic integration is not currently being achieved adequately. Specifically, important elements of the USGCRP may be lost due to agency boundaries and individual agency funding difficulties.
- The USGCRP should be implemented as an integrated program of observations, process research, modeling, prediction, information management, and assessment that incorporates the unique assets and capabilities of the participating agencies and their extramural research programs. The necessary program integration and coordination must be achieved through enhanced collaboration and cooperation among the scientific community, the Congress, federal agencies, and the Executive Office of the President in the program's planning, implementation, and funding.
To that end,
- The scientific community, through its established advisory mechanisms, should
- provide more timely scientific guidance on program priorities, balance and direction;
- ensure broader and more balanced expert representation in advisory processes;
- promote more effectively U.S. contributions to international global change research programs; and
- conduct periodic external reviews to assess scientific progress and evaluate programmatic integration and performance.
- The Congress should
- ensure that program authorizations and resource allocations to individual agencies are consistent with the implementation of an integrated program. (This is not currently being done); and
- provide a mechanism for bipartisan, bicameral oversight of the effectiveness of the program in meeting the information needs of the nation.
- The Executive Office of the President and federal agencies should
- implement USGCRP projects on an interagency basis using joint program announcements and pooled resources;
- establish multiagency programs to integrate and jointly manage the crosscutting elements of the program such as training and education; and
- provide a structure for effective interagency decisions on programmatic content and resource allocation including, where appropriate, designation of a lead agency or an interagency program office. The current approach to interagency coordination is not adequate, and its shortcoming are particularly damaging in these difficult budgetary times. The committee believes that the current interagency coordination structure lacks the level of programmatic discipline and agency accountability required to implement the USGCRP as a fully integrated interagency program.
The scientific problems of global change are complex and often cross the boundaries between traditional scientific disciplines. Young scientists, whose training is still relatively narrow, may thus have difficulty obtaining support, and their contributions may consequently be limited. The multidisciplinary character of the research, coupled with the disciplinary structure of traditional funding mechanisms, may hinder the emergence and recognition of capable leaders in science and government.
- The USGCRP and its component programs should encourage the recruiting and support of young scientists, particularly those capable of addressing inherently interdisciplinary Earth science problems.
- Professional societies, universities, and funding agencies should take new steps to ensure that scientists and program managers are recognized for unique contributions to the development and implementation of global change research.
SCIENTIFIC DOMAINS The Committee on Global Change Research believes that four areas of Earth system science currently addressed by the USGCRP have reached a level of maturity at which enhanced, focused efforts promise tangible near-term benefits to society, including providing a sound, scientifically based assessment of the current state of the Earth's environment, while strengthening the scientific base for prediction of future global environmental conditions:
Seasonal to Interannual Climate Prediction
The concept of "end-to-end prediction" (i.e., the use of fundamental science to develop sound predictive schemes that yield products explicitly useful to human activities) motivates and guides all the components of this part of the program and sets its priorities and balance of elements, which include the following:
- development of coupled atmosphere-ocean-land models;
- combination of both in situ and satellite observations to initialize the models and an efficient data system to support this combination;
- investigation of poorly understood processes such as land- atmosphere interactions and atmosphere-ocean-land interactions outside the tropics; and
- research to support the application and evaluation of these forecasts.
- Direct research toward
- improving the skill of predictions of El Niñ o for use in the tropical Pacific; and
- enhancing predictive skills in areas beyond the tropics to the extent possible for future applications in sectors such as agriculture and water resource management.
- Enhance understanding of land-atmosphere interactions with
- an initial emphasis on the Mississippi basin, to determine the predictability of regional precipitation and hydrologic water budget with future applications for agriculture and local economies; and
- a second focus on the Amazon basin to further our understanding of energy and water exchange over the tropical land masses.
- Establish an international research prototype prediction capability, including a focused facility (the proposed International Research Institute) and a supporting research program in order to
- accelerate the application of demonstrated predictive capabilities;
- secure multinational support for global-scale observing systems and international research programs; and
- focus research to extend predictive capabilities and applications.
The chemical composition of the atmosphere has been changing rapidly over the last several decades. Global change research has been successful in developing a scientific understanding of several of these changes such as stratospheric ozone depletion. However, the assessment and understanding of other problems such as tropospheric ozone and aerosols and their roles in climate and chemical processes remain largely inadequate.
- Enhance USGCRP research and its relationship to assessment in tropospheric chemistry.
- Improve estimates of regional and national trends in anthropogenic trace gas emissions.
- Enhance the focus on tropospheric ozone and its precursors through an optimized combination of space-based and in situ observations, laboratory studies, and modeling.
- Characterize the global distribution and processes associated with tropospheric aerosols.
- Extend to continental regions the current coastal and island networks monitoring biogenic gases.
- Conduct uninterrupted, careful monitoring and scientific assessment of total ozone and other ozone trends in the lower stratosphere, and evaluate their links to climate change.
Ecosystems Prediction of future global environmental changes requires a scientific assessment of the current condition of terrestrial and marine ecosystems and an understanding of large-scale terrestrial and marine ecological processes. Integrative Earth system models are important tools for assimilating and ordering this ecological information.
- Extend, both spatially and temporally, observing programs and process studies to document changes of the global carbon cycle in the atmosphere, in the ocean, and in the terrestrial system.
- Implement promptly national and international plans for scientific investigations of large-scale trends, patterns, and relationships among vegetation, climate, and human land use to document the interaction between natural and human systems for communication to resource managers.
- Study the interactions between both managed and natural ecosystems and the atmosphere in the exchange of energy, water, carbon dioxide, and trace gases and the effects of these exchanges on global and regional climates and water resources.
- Develop and validate ecosystem components and surface- atmosphere processes in integrative climate models.
Decadal to Centennial Climate
Anthropogenic forcing of climate change is an important problem, and significant additional scientific progress can be achieved that will serve society well. The problem should be studied in the context of natural climate variability over time scales of decades, centuries, and even millennia, and the interrelated trends in economies, technology, and demography.
- Investigate and assess changes in all the major forcing factors that influence climate variability and change and their interactions.
- Through models that couple the components of the Earth system--including the ocean, atmosphere, land, and ice-- explore the major feedback processes, and thereby reduce the uncertainties in projecting future climate and its impact on human societies.
- Document the primary characteristics of the climate system by means of consistent long-term observations.
- Investigate critical economic, technological, and demographic trends that are affecting the ability of natural and human systems to cope with climate variability and change, including changes in urban infrastructure, farming technologies, trade, and water use and efficiency that can increase vulnerability or resilience to global change.
CROSSCUTTING ISSUES The Committee on Global Change Research believes that a number of issues regarding the programmatic framework and supporting infrastructure for the USGCRP deserve special attention.
USGCRP Observational Strategy
The USGCRP requires an integrated observational strategy in which the choice of tools and approaches is driven by scientific needs and reflects an appropriate balance between in situ and remotely sensed observations to produce integrated information products for use by the research community and decisionmakers in the public and private sectors.
- The USGCRP should develop and implement a new integrated observational strategy that
- identifies the key scientific questions to be addressed, characterizes the required measurements, devises the most appropriate, cost-effective observational system to secure them, and maintains the programmatic discipline required to ensure balance within that system;
- in close collaboration with the scientific community, identifies the needs for long-term observing systems and addresses the many difficult problems involved in their maintenance and the archiving of their data, utilizing scientific symposia and publication in the open literature as essential lements in this complex task; and
- takes advantage of advances in technology such as unmanned aircraft and small satellite systems, where appropriate, to support observational and process research needs.
NASA's Earth Observing System
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Earth Observing System (EOS) should reflect the integrated observational strategy called for above. A series of previous reviews reshaped the program and guided it toward more responsiveness to scientific needs, greater resiliency, and increased opportunities for the introduction of new technology. In the plans presented to the present review, smaller spacecraft were scheduled to follow the AM- 1, PM-1, and Chemistry-1 (Chem-1) missions. Furthermore, there was a shift by NASA in 1994 and 1995 from a fixed series of 9 missions involving intermediate-class spacecraft to a mixed fleet of 21 missions exploiting small to medium-class spacecraft. Our review supports that trend.
The present review also has confirmed that continued evolution is essential for successful implementation of NASA's Earth Observing System; therefore, the capability for future evolution must be maintained. In keeping with the above recommendation that the USGCRP develop an integrated observational strategy, and in anticipation of the advancement in understanding that will be achieved during this first phase of the EOS program, NASA, in concert with the USGCRP community, should consider carefully the observational strategy appropriate for the post-2004 era. Specific consideration must be given to the balance between monitoring, which requires certain long-term, calibrated measurements, and focused process studies, which may be accomplished in shorter periods. NASA's plans for biennial assessments are consistent with this recommendation and should also help ensure that the near-term observational strategy remains technologically current and scientifically relevant.
The present review has concluded, however, that structural changes to the near-term EOS missions beyond the limits achieved in the 1995 reshaping exercise would cause severe program dislocations. Further budgetary reductions or imposed constraints on technical options could mean the elimination of key sensors, slips in schedule, loss of data continuity, and the elimination of advanced technology development that could enhance future research and lower costs. Our review has concluded that a shift to smaller platforms for the first group of instruments would be premature, since it could eliminate key measurements.
As a result of technological advances, new scientific insights, programmatic changes by NASA in 1994 and 1995, and the evolving needs of the USGCRP as a whole, it is now appropriate to rebalance the program across space assets, in situ measurements, modeling and process studies, and the data and information management system. This rebalancing must be done carefully and must fully recognize the importance of certain calibrated long-term measurements for the USGCRP. The basis for this rebalanced EOS observational strategy is the 1995 reshaping of NASA's Earth Observing System.
- The USGCRP as a whole, and NASA's Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) Program specifically, should maintain a science-driven approach to observation and information technology that employs current technology while investing in the development of new technology with clear applications to support the program's specific scientific prior- ities.
- NASA should implement most of the near-term components of MTPE/EOS, including Landsat 7, AM-1, PM-1, and the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), without delay or reduction in overall observing capability.
- In situ observational programs, process studies, and large-scale modeling activities should be expanded (e.g., through coordinated field programs focused on high-priority scientific issues and utilization of advances in technology).
- NASA should develop advanced technologies to reduce the costs of continuing the essential observations initiated by the AM-1, PM-1, and Chem-1 missions.
- Because global mapping of tropospheric ozone is central for understanding and monitoring changes in the chemistry of the troposphere, the tropospheric component of the Chemistry-1 mission should be focused on global measurements of tropospheric ozone and its precursors in conjunction with the international ozone network.
- NASA should evaluate the capabilities of both space-based and in situ approaches to define the best scientific framework for obtaining critical information on ozone precursors in order to interpret tropospheric ozone trends. This evaluation must involve a wide spectrum of the scientific community. In addition, the evaluation should consider the critical aspects of the coupling between the chemistry of the troposphere and the stratosphere and the contributions from the European ENVISAT mission. An overall need to simplify and focus the Chem-1 mission and thereby reduce its cost and complexity must be recognized; however, the Chemistry-1 mission should not be delayed.
Coordination with Other Space Remote- Sensing Programs
Convergence of observing activities among the programs of U.S. agencies and those of other nations offers the potential for significant savings. However, the current convergence planning process does not have the charter or authority to consider the scientific requirements of USGCRP.
- Science requirements should be considered for inclusion in the specifications for the converged NOAA/Defense Meteorological Satellite Program system.
- In 1996, a scientific and technical review of the federal convergence activities should be conducted with special attention to their connection to the USGCRP.
Small-Satellite and Advanced Technologies
Those small satellites that have relatively low costs and short development times may provide mission and programmatic flexibility that can stimulate innovation. They can also provide a means to introduce new technology and conduct focused observing missions. The reshaped 1995 MTPE/EOS program anticipates the application of such satellites where appropriate. In some cases, physics, economics, and engineering constraints may preclude the application of small satellites. A balanced architecture for MTPE employs satellites of various sizes as appropriate to scientific needs.
- NASA should explore the possibility of using advanced technologies on small satellites for measuring tropospheric aerosols and winds, soil moisture, and other key parameters through laser, radar, and other advanced technologies.
- The Earth sciences component of the New Millennium Program (NMP) should be integrated into the Mission to Planet Earth Program; it should be science driven and not treated as a separate technology program.
- A small-satellite program should recognize two linked challenges:
- to develop capabilities that will lower mission costs; and
- to develop measurement capabilities that advance our observational capabilities in critical priority areas in Earth system science and global change.
Again, however, any shift in observational strategy and its implementation must be done carefully and must fully recognize the importance of certain calibrated long-term measurements for the USGCRP.
Practical Applications of EOS
MTPE/EOS, including the TRMM, Landsat 7, AM-1, PM-1, Chem- 1, and the associated smaller missions, represents significant advances over previous space observation systems. The capabilities of these systems will contribute to practical applications such as natural hazards mitigation, water resources management, and food and fiber production, as well as advances in the Earth sciences.
- The capabilities of MTPE/EOS should be exploited fully via enhanced public access to the information products.
EOS Data and Information System
The EOS Data and Information System (EOSDIS) is an essential component of the EOS program for linking space and ground observations and converting them into accessible geophysical information that will contribute to new scientific understanding. Originally designed by NASA as a centrally controlled and operated system to meet ambitious performance and reliability requirements, the system was redesigned after a National Research Council (NRC) review as a logically distributed system based on a client-server model in order to accommodate evolving computer system concepts and technologies.
Despite this improvement, current performance requirements, a centrally controlled system of stand-alone computer centers, and an extensive engineering and management superstructure are stressing the bounds of affordability. Moreover, the committee is concerned that the management structure may not be sufficiently flexible to meet rapidly evolving scientific needs and opportunities. The current system should therefore be reconsidered in light of technological opportunities and possible management efficiencies.
The present problems with EOSDIS are not related to engineering concepts. Instead, the concerns are much more fundamental and are related directly to the conceptual model of its operations and management. For EOSDIS to succeed in enabling new levels of achievement in the Earth sciences and applications in a wide range of activities in the public and private sectors, its management must be open and community based. Thats, the community of researchers and users must take the lead in making key decisions, and the assignment of responsibilities and evaluations of performance must be based on peer review. The system must encourage innovation and creativity through broad participation of the scientific, public, and private sectors.
Recent progress in redesigning the EOSDIS architecture, coupled with extraordinary new capabilities in computer telecommunications and recent experience by the scientific community in the management of large and diverse data sets, now permits a significant change in the conceptual model that governs the management and operation of the system. Thus, although the initial processing (e.g., through geo-located and calibrated radiances at the spacecraft) of the data flowing from spacecraft should remain with NASA and could be conducted largely at existing centers, the subsequent processing and creation of products useful in science and applications should be distributed widely and thereby take advantage of the concepts and technology involved in the rapid growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web.
Thus, the current distributed client-server design of EOSDIS is responsive to community needs, and its engineering development, and should continue. However, the Committee on Global Change Research believes that the EOSDIS management and operations concept should be redefined to involve the broad user community effectively.
- The components of the EOSDIS now under development for flight control, data downlink, and initial processing should be retained but streamlined.
- Responsibility for product generation, publication, and user services should be transferred to a federation of partners selected through a competitive process open to all.
Representative actions to respond to these recommendations are given in Appendix F with the aim of aiding NASA, the EOS investigators, and EOSDIS contractors in designing and conducting a collaborative study of the feasibility and cost of the proposed approach.
Clearly these recommendations imply a major change in EOSDIS management and operations. Under the proposed concept, the initial processing of observational data from EOS spacecraft would remain the responsibility of NASA. After a transition period, however, the responsibility for generating products and accounting for interdependencies among instruments would be distributed through a competitive process to a federation that might include government, academic, and private sector entities. Members of the federation would receive geophysically located, calibrated radiances over the Internet or via overnight express; process the data to higher levels, resolving any necessary interdependencies; create appropriate data products; and make them available to users over the Internet or by shipment of media. Among the higher-level data products that would be produced and distributed in this manner would be EOS Standard Data Products.
To be successful, this approach must incorporate community leadership and acceptance of responsibility in decisionmaking, and it must encourage innovation and creativity by providing users with ready access to scientifically meaningful data sets. The new approach must be based on powerful incentives, permissive standards that encourage wide participation and electronic publication of results, and meaningful criteria for assessing the performance of the partners responsible for data products and user assistance. In implementing this recommendation, there must be a clear recognition of the overriding importance of long-term maintenance and availability of the data, including the original Level-0 data, the geophysically located and calibrated radiances, and the higher-level products.
This intellectually inclusive approach will stimulate scientific creativity and innovation while providing increased return on the national investment. Moreover, it will create a strong foundation for the broader Global Change Data and Information System. It will generate a new approach to the interactive management and use of distributed data sets that, with an appropriate set of standards and protocols, will provide a new capability for collaborative and innovative exploitation of complex arrays of data and information in a wide range of public and private endeavors.
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) recognizes the intellectual evolution of Earth system science and the magnitude of the scientific challenge of understanding and predicting global change. The scientific foundations, motivations, and goals of the USGCRP remain valid guides for the conduct of the program. Nevertheless, because of scientific advances, emerging technologies, and new concepts of effective management, the program can be refined in significant ways to become scientifically stronger, to be balanced better, and to produce greater return on the national investment. The Committee on Global Change Research, assisted by the workshop participants, assessed the USGCRP and NASA's MTPE/EOS program in the context of these new scientific and management insights and identified a recommended path for the future of the USGCRP. The proposed rebalancing of the program would offer the potential for significant economies (e.g., by simplifying the Chem-1 mission, by streamlining the data downlink and initial processing of EOSDIS, and by employing a federation of partners in EOSDIS for product generation). To ensure scientific success, it is necessary to direct resources toward (1) expanding in situ observations, process studies, and large-scale modeling; and (2) developing advanced technology to reduce the costs of second- and third-generation missions and to open new scientific opportunities.
The Committee on Global Change Research believes that this rebalancing of resources is central to the recommendations in this report.