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Review of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program’s Synthesis and Assessment Product on Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere Introduction The U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) was established in 2002 to coordinate climate and global change research conducted in the United States. Building on and incorporating the U.S. Global Change Research Program of the previous decade, the program integrates federal research on climate and global change, as sponsored by 13 federal agencies and overseen by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Council on Environmental Quality, the National Economic Council and the Office of Management and Budget. A primary objective of the CCSP is to provide the best possible scientific information to support public discussion and government and private sector decision-making on key climate-related issues. To help meet this objective, the CCSP is producing a series of synthesis and assessment products that address its highest priority research, observation, and decision-support needs. At this time, the CCSP plans to conduct 21 such activities over the next 3 years, covering topics such as the North American carbon budget and implications for the global carbon cycle, coastal elevation and sensitivity to sea-level rise, and trends in emissions of ozone-depleting substances and ozone recovery and implications for ultraviolet radiation exposure. Each of these documents will be written by a team of authors selected on the basis of their past record of interest and accomplishment in the given topic. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the lead agency for the first CCSP synthesis and assessment product, which focuses on both understanding reported differences between independently produced data sets of temperature trends for the surface through the lower stratosphere and comparing these data sets to model simulations (see Appendix A). In trying to understand these differences, the assessment attempts to answer six fundamental questions (see Box 1). This synthesis and assessment product builds on and extends the results of a 2000 National Research Council (NRC) report, Reconciling Observations of Global Temperature Change, relevant parts of the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2001), and other advances in our understanding of this issue. This assessment is expected to contribute to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (due to be published in 2007) and to the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Atmospheric Observation Panel by identifying effective ways to reduce observational uncertainty. The assessment is to be written in a style consistent with major international scientific assessments. In a recent review of the U.S. CCSP Strategic Plan, the NRC recommended that
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Review of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program’s Synthesis and Assessment Product on Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere synthesis and assessment products should be produced with independent oversight and review from the wider scientific and stakeholder communities (NRC, 2004). To ensure credibility and quality, NOAA has requested an independent review of its synthesis and assessment product on temperature trends by the NRC. The NRC committee’s statement of task is included in Appendix B. The committee conducted its work by reading the CCSP report Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Understanding and Reconciling Differences (draft dated 2/9/2005) carefully, meeting with the authoring team to ask questions, and then compiling this summary of reactions. In addition, a public comment period is scheduled to occur after this review has been completed and revisions have been made by the authoring team. BOX 1 Questions to be Addressed in the First CCSP Synthesis and Assessment Product The first CCSP synthesis and assessment product focuses on both understanding reported differences between independently produced data sets of temperature trends for the surface through the lower stratosphere and comparing these data sets with model simulations. The fundamental questions posed in the assessment are: Why do temperatures vary vertically (from the surface to the stratosphere) and what do we understand about why they might vary and change over time? What kinds of atmospheric temperature variations can the current observing systems measure and what are their strengths and limitations, both spatially and temporally? What do observations indicate about the changes of temperature in the atmosphere and at the surface since the advent of measuring temperatures vertically? What is our understanding of the contribution made by observational or methodological uncertainties to the previously reported vertical differences in temperature trends? How well can the observed vertical temperature changes be reconciled with our understanding of the causes of these changes? What measures can be taken to improve the understanding of observed changes?
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