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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 6.1 National Imperatives for Earth and Climate Sciences STATEMENTS BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY February 13, 2007 Statement of Richard A. Anthes, Ph.D. President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and Co-Chair, Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space National Research Council, The National Academies Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority Member, and members of the committee: thank you for inviting me here to testify today. My name is Richard Anthes, and I am the President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a consortium of 70 research universities that manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on behalf of the National Science Foundation, and additional scientific education, training and support programs. I am also the current President of the American Meteorological Society. I appear today in my capacity as co-chair of the National Research Council (NRC)’s Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space: A Community Assessment and Strategy for the Future. The National Research Council is the unit of the National Academies that is responsible for organizing independent advisory studies for the federal government on science and technology. In response to requests from NASA, NOAA, and the USGS, the NRC has recently completed a “decadal survey” of Earth science and applications from space. (“Decadal surveys” are the 10-year prioritized roadmaps that the NRC has done for 40 years for the astronomers; this is the first time it is being done for Earth science and applications from space.) Among the key tasks in the charge to the decadal survey committee were to: Develop a consensus of the top-level scientific questions that should provide the focus for Earth and environmental observations in the period 2005-2020; and Develop a prioritized list of recommended space programs, missions, and supporting activities to address these questions. The NRC survey committee has prepared an extensive report in response to this charge, which I am pleased to be able to summarize here today. Over 100 leaders in the Earth science community participated on the survey steering committee or its seven study panels. It is noteworthy that this was the first Earth science decadal survey, and the committee and panel members did an excellent job in fulfilling the charge and establishing a consensus—a task many previously considered impossible. A copy of the full report has also been provided for your use. The committee’s vision is encapsulated in the following declaration, first stated in the committee’s interim report, published in 2005: Understanding the complex, changing planet on which we live, how it supports life, and how human activities affect its ability to do so in the future is one of the greatest intellectual challenges facing humanity. It is also one of the most important challenges for society as it seeks to achieve prosperity, health, and sustainability. As detailed in the committee’s final report, and as we were profoundly reminded by the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world faces significant and profound environmental challenges: shortages of clean and accessible freshwater, degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, increases in soil erosion, changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere, declines in fisheries, and above all the rapid pace of substantial changes in climate. These changes are not isolated; they interact with each other and with natural variability in complex ways that cascade through the environment across local, regional, and global scales. Addressing these societal challenges requires that we confront key scientific questions related to ice sheets and sea level change, large-scale and persistent shifts in precipitation and water availability, transcontinental air pollution, shifts in ecosystem structure and function in response to climate change, impacts of climate change on human health, and occurrence of extreme events, such as hurricanes, floods and droughts, heat waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Yet at a time when the need has never been greater, we are faced with an Earth observation program that will dramatically diminish in capability over the next 5-10 years.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 Last April, my co-chair, Dr. Berrien Moore, came before Congress to testify in response to release of the committee’s 2005 interim report. His testimony highlighted the key roles played by NASA and NOAA over the past 30 years in advancing our understanding of the Earth system and in providing a variety of societal benefits through their international leadership in Earth observing systems from space. He noted that while NOAA had plans to modernize and refresh its weather satellites, NASA had no plans to replace its Earth Observing System platforms after their nominal six year lifetimes end. He also noted that NASA had cancelled, scaled back, or delayed at least six planned missions, including a Landsat continuity mission. This led to the main finding in the interim report, which stated “this system of environmental satellites is at risk of collapse.” Since the publication of the interim report, the Hydros and Deep Space Climate Observatory missions were cancelled; the flagship Global Precipitation Mission was delayed for another two and a half years; significant cuts were made to NASA’s Research and Analysis program: the NPOESS Preparatory Project mission was delayed for a year and a half; a key atmospheric profiling sensor planned for the next generation of NOAA geostationary satellites was canceled; and the NPOESS program breached the Nunn-McCurdy budget cap. As you have all heard, the certified NPOESS program delays the first launch by 3 years, eliminates 2 of the planned 6 spacecraft, and de-manifests or de-scopes a number of instruments, with particular consequences for measurement of the forcing and feedbacks that need to be measured to understand the magnitude, pace, and consequences of global and regional climate change. It is against this backdrop that I discuss the present report. As you will see in the report, between 2006 and the end of the decade, the number of operating missions will decrease dramatically and the number of operating sensors and instruments on NASA spacecraft, most of which are well past their nominal lifetimes, will decrease by some 35 percent, with a 50 percent reduction by 2015 (see Figure 1 below). Substantial loss of capability is likely over the next several years due to a combination of decreased budgets and aging satellites already well past their design lifetimes. This will result in an overall degradation of the system of Earth observing satellites, with the following potential consequences: After decades of steady improvement, weather forecasts, including those of severe weather such as hurricanes, may start becoming less accurate, putting more people at risk and diminishing the proven economic value of accurate forecasts. The ozone hole in the stratosphere has apparently reached its maximum intensity. Models predict it will start to slowly recover. Without observations we may not be able to verify its recovery or explain why it is occurring. Earth is warming because of a small imbalance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing radiation from Earth. Measuring this small imbalance is critical to determining how fast Earth is warming and when the warming will stop. Without the measurements we are recommending will not be able to quantify how this net energy imbalance is changing. Climate models have improved steadily over the years, but are far from perfect. We need observations of the Earth system, the atmosphere, oceans, land and ice to verify and improve the climate models. These models have real impact on the U.S. economy, in predicting El Nino and other seasonal fluctuations in climate, which are used in energy, water and agriculture management. Sea level is rising and ice around the world is melting, yet there is uncertainty in how fast these are occurring and whether or not they are accelerating or decelerating. Without the observations we are recommending, we will be unable to know for sure how these rates are changing and what the implications will be for coastal communities. There is controversy about whether the frequency and intensity of hurricanes are increasing as the climate warms; observations of the atmosphere and oceans are required to resolve this important issue. The risk of missing early detection of Earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions will increase. Air quality forecasts, which require the global perspectives of satellites to identify pollution transport across borders, will become less accurate, with negative implications for both human health and urban pollution management efforts. Earth science is based fundamentally on observations. While it is impossible to predict what scientific advances will not occur without the observations, or what surprises (like the ozone hole) we will miss, we can be sure the rate of scientific progress will be greatly slowed without a robust set of Earth observations. In its report, the committee sets forth a series of near-term and longer-term recommendations in order to address these troubling trends. It is important to note that this report does not “shoot for the moon,” and indeed the committee exercised considerable constraint in its recommendations, which were carefully considered within the context
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 of challenging budget situations. Yet, while societal applications have grown ever-more dependent upon our Earth observing fleet, the NASA Earth science budget has declined some 30% in constant-year dollars since 2000 (see Figure 2 below). This disparity between growing societal needs and diminished resources must be corrected. This leads to the report’s overarching recommendation: The U.S. government, working in concert with the private sector, academe, the public, and its international partners, should renew its investment in Earth observing systems and restore its leadership in Earth science and applications.” The report outlines near-term actions meant to stem the tide of capability deterioration and continue critical data records, as well as forward-looking recommendations to establish a balanced Earth observation program designed to directly address the most urgent societal challenges facing our nation and the world (see Figure 3 below for an example of how nine of our recommended missions support in a synergistic way one of the societal benefit areas—extreme event warnings). It is important to recognize that these two sets of recommendations are not an “either/or” set of priorities. Both near-term actions and longer-term commitments are required to stem the tide of capability deterioration, continue critical climate data records, and establish a balanced Earth observation program designed to directly address the most urgent societal challenges facing our nation and the world. It is important to “right the ship” for Earth science, and we simply cannot let the current challenges we face with NPOESS and other troubled programs stop progress on all other fronts. Implementation of the “stop-gap” recommendations concerning NPOESS, NPP, and GOES-R are important—and the recommendations for establishing a healthy program going forward are equally as important. Satisfying near-term recommendations without placing due emphasis on the forward-looking program is to ignore the largest fraction of work that has gone into this report. Moreover, such a strategy would result in a further loss of U.S. scientific and technical capacity, which could decrease the competitiveness of the United States internationally for years to come. Key elements of the recommended program include: Restoration of certain measurement capabilities to the NPP, NPOESS, and GOES-R spacecraft in order to ensure continuity of critical data sets. Completion of the existing planned program that was used as a baseline assumption for this survey. This includes (but is not limited to) launch of GPM in or before 2012, securing a replacement to Landsat 7 data before 2012. A prioritized set of 17 missions to be carried out by NOAA and NASA over the next decade (see Tables 1 and 2 below). This set of missions provides a sound foundation for Earth science and its associated societal benefits well beyond 2020. The committee believes strongly that these missions form a minimal, yet robust, observational component of an Earth information system that is capable of addressing a broad range of societal needs. A technology development program at NASA with funding comparable to and in addition to its basic technology program to make sure the necessary technologies are ready when needed to support mission starts over the coming decade. A new “Venture” class of low-cost research and application missions that can establish entirely new research avenues or demonstrate key application-oriented measurements, helping with the development of innovative ideas and technologies. Priority would be given to cost-effective, innovative missions rather than ones with excessive scientific and technological requirements. A robust NASA Research and Analysis program, which is necessary to maximize scientific return on NASA investments in Earth science. Because the R&A programs are carried out largely through the Nation’s research universities, such programs are also of great importance in supporting and training next generation Earth science researchers. Suborbital and land-based measurements and socio-demographic studies in order to supplement and complement satellite data. A comprehensive information system to meet the challenge of production, distribution, and stewardship of observational data and climate records. To ensure the recommended observations will benefit society, the mission program must be accompanied by efforts to translate raw observational data into useful information through modeling, data assimilation, and research and analysis. Further, the committee is particularly concerned with the lack of clear agency responsibility for sustained research programs and the transitioning of proof-of-concept measurements into sustained measurement systems. To
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 address societal and research needs, both the quality and the continuity of the measurement record must be assured through the transition of short-term, exploratory capabilities, into sustained observing systems. The elimination of the requirements for climate research-related measurements on NPOESS is only the most recent example of the nation’s failure to sustain critical measurements. Therefore, our committee recommends that the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in collaboration with the relevant agencies, and in consultation with the scientific community, should develop and implement a plan for achieving and sustaining global Earth observations. This plan should recognize the complexity of differing agency roles, responsibilities, and capabilities as well as the lessons from implementation of the Landsat, EOS, and NPOESS programs. Mr. Chairman, the observing system we envision will help establish a firm and sustainable foundation for Earth science and associated societal benefits through the year 2020 and beyond. It can be achieved through effective management of technology advances and international partnerships, and broad use of satellite science data by the research and decision-making communities. Our report recommends a path forward that restores U.S. leadership in Earth science and applications and averts the potential collapse of the system of environmental satellites. As documented in our report, this can be accomplished in a fiscally responsible manner, and I urge the committee to see that it is accomplished. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I am prepared to answer any questions that you may have. February 13, 2007 Statement of Berrien Moore III, Ph.D. University Distinguished Professor Director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space University of New Hampshire Co-Chair, Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space National Research Council, The National Academies Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority Member, and members of the committee: thank you for inviting me here to testify today. My name is Berrien Moore, and I am a professor of systems research at the University of New Hampshire and Director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space. I appear today, like Dr. Anthes, in my capacity as co-chair of the National Research Council (NRC)’s Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space. As you know, the NRC is the unit of the National Academies that is responsible for organizing independent advisory studies for the federal government on science and technology. The NRC has been conducting decadal strategy surveys in astronomy for four decades, but this is the first decadal survey in Earth science and applications from space. On March 2, 2006, I testified before this committee at a hearing entitled, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate: Impacts of the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget Proposal. At that hearing, I showed the table below, which is taken from the 2005 Interim Report of our study. This table shows the effects of the FY ‘06 budget. I then discussed my concerns about the proposed cuts in the FY ‘07 budget, especially the continuing reductions in funding for Research and Analysis, which I believed was having a very negative effect on a program already pared to the bone. With this as background, I will now turn to the questions posed to me in advance of this hearing. How did the Decadal Survey committee determine the priorities that it recommended the nation pursue in Earth and climate science research and applications? As noted in testimony of my co-chair, Dr. Richard Anthes, the decadal survey’s vision, which was first expressed in the committee’s 2005 Interim Report, is for a program of Earth science research and applications in support of society. The present report reaffirms this vision, the fulfillment of which requires a national commitment to a program of Earth observations from space in which practical benefits to humankind play an equal role with the quest to acquire new knowledge about the Earth. The Interim Report described how satellite observations have been critical to scientific efforts to understand the Earth as a system of connected components, including the land, oceans, atmosphere, biosphere, and solid-Earth. It also gave examples of how these observations have served the nation, helping to save lives and protect property,
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 strengthening national security, and contributing to the growth of our economy through provision of timely environmental information. However, the Interim Report also identified a substantial risk to the continued availability of these observations, warning that the nation’s system of environmental satellites was “at risk of collapse.” As noted above, in the short period since the publication of the Interim Report, budgetary constraints and programmatic difficulties at NASA and NOAA have greatly exacerbated this concern. At a time of unprecedented need, the nation’s Earth observation satellite programs, once the envy of the world, are in disarray. The decadal survey was led by an Executive Committee that drew on the work of seven thematically-organized study panels: Earth science applications and societal needs. Land-use change, ecosystem dynamics, and biodiversity. Weather (including space weather5 and chemical weather6). Climate variability and change. Water resources and the global hydrologic cycle. Human health and security. Solid-Earth hazards, resources, and dynamics. As described in Chapter 2 of our final report, each of the panels used a common template in establishing priority lists of proposed missions (see Table 1 below). The potential to deliver tangible benefits to society was an overriding consideration for panel deliberations. Because execution of even a small portion of the missions on the panels’ short lists was not considered affordable, panels worked with each other and with members of the Executive Committee to pare the number of missions; they also developed synergistic mission “rollups” that would maximize science and application returns across the panels while keeping within a more affordable budget. Frequently, the recommended missions represented a compromise in an instrument or spacecraft characteristic (including orbit) between what two or more panels would have recommended individually without a budget constraint. All the recommendations offered by the panels would merit support—indeed, the panels’ short lists of recommendations were distilled from the over 100 responses that we received in response to a request for mission concepts, as well as other submissions—but the Executive Committee took as its charge the provision of a strategy for a strong, balanced national program in Earth science for the next decade that could be carried out with what are thought to be realistic resources. Difficult choices were inevitable, but the recommendations presented in this report reflect the committee’s best judgment, informed by the work of the panels and discussions with the scientific community, about which programs are most important for developing and sustaining the Earth science enterprise. The recommended NASA program can be accomplished by restoring the Earth science budget in real terms to the levels of the late 1990s. What are the practical benefits of the research and applications activities that your Decadal Survey recommended? Our report presents a vision for the Earth science program; an analysis of the existing Earth observing system and recommendations to help restore its capabilities; an assessment of and recommendations for new observations and missions needed for the next decade; an examination of and recommendations concerning effective application of those observations; and an analysis of how best to sustain that observation and applications system. A critical element of the study’s vision is its emphasis on the need to place the benefits to society that can be provided by an effective Earth observation system on a par with scientific advancement. The integrated suite of space missions and supporting and complementary activities that are described in our report will support the development of numerous applications of high importance to society. Expected benefits of the fully-implemented program include: Human Health More reliable forecasts of infectious and vector-borne disease outbreaks for disease control and response. Earthquake Early Warning Identification of active faults and prediction of the likelihood of earthquakes to enable effective investment in structural improvements, inform land-use decisions, and provide early warning of impending earthquakes.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 Weather Prediction Longer-term, more reliable weather forecasts. Sea Level Rise Climate predictions based on better understanding of ocean temperature and ice sheet volume changes and feedback to enable effective coastal community planning. Climate Prediction Robust estimates of primary climate forcings for improved climate forecasts, including local predictions of the effects of climate change; determination in time and space of sources and sinks of carbon dioxide. Freshwater Availability More accurate and longer-term precipitation and drought forecasts to improve water resource management. Ecosystem Services More reliable land-use, agricultural, and ocean productivity forecasts to improve planting and harvesting schedules and fisheries management. Air Quality More reliable air quality forecasts to enable effective urban pollution management. Extreme Storm Warnings Longer-term, more reliable storm track forecasts and intensification predictions to enable effective evacuation planning. How consistent is the President’s FY 2008 budget request for NASA and NOAA with the recommendations of the Decadal Survey Committee? It is important to note we were, of course, not privy to the details of the President’s fiscal year 2008 budget, which was developed prior to the release of our final report. The NRC report is a forward-looking document and therefore focuses primarily on the new missions; whereas, the Interim Report dealt with the difficulties and challenges of the Earth observing programs at NASA and NOAA, as they existed in early 2005. Let me address first the President’s FY ’08 budget request for NASA Earth science. It is a mixture of some good news and bad news. The primary good news is the small bottom line increases for 2008 and 2009. These increases address the needs of currently planned missions already in development, the completion of which is consistent with the decadal survey’s baseline set of assumptions. Unfortunately, the out-year budgets reveal fundamental flaws in the budget and NASA’s Earth science plans— the budgets are totally inadequate to accomplish the decadal survey’s recommendations. In 2010, the Earth science budget begins to decline again and reaches a 20-year low, in real terms, in 2012. This decline reflects that the 2008 budget contains no provision for new missions, nor does it allow us to address the significant challenges facing our planet. These disturbing broad trends are captured in Figure 1. Before turning to NOAA, I want to emphasize that the problems in the out-years appear to be due entirely to the lack of adequate resources. In fact, at a NASA town hall meeting that followed the release of our report on January 15, 2007 at the 2007 annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society, the head of NASA’s Earth Science program stated that the recommendations in our report provided the roadmap for the Earth Science program we should have. The NOAA NESDIS budget picture is also a mixture of some good and bad news. In this case, the budget takes a small downturn in FY08, followed by significant growth in FY09–FY10, before turning down again in FY11 (Figure 2). It remains to be seen whether this ~$200 M/year growth in FY09 and FY10 can enable restoration of some of the lost capabilities to NPOESS and GOES-R. There appears to be no budgetary wedge for new starts. Finally, for a variety of reasons, the NOAA NESDIS budget is far from transparent, especially in the out-years, and the level of detail that is readily available makes it difficult to respond adequately to Committee’s question. What will be the impact if present trends in Earth and climate science research and applications investments continue? As detailed in our report and as summarized by my co-chair, between 2006 and the end of the decade, the number of operating U.S. missions will decrease dramatically and the number of operating sensors and instruments on NASA spacecraft, most of which are well past their nominal lifetimes, may decrease by some 35 percent. If present trends continue, reductions of some 50 percent reduction are possible by 2015. Were this to pass, we would have chosen, in effect, to partially blind ourselves at a time of increasing need to monitor, predict, and develop responses to numerous global environmental challenges. Vital climate records, such as the measurement of solar irradiance and the Earth’s response, will be placed in jeopardy or lost. Measurements of aerosols, ozone profiles, sea surface height, sources and sinks of important greenhouse gases, patterns of air and coastal pollution, and even winds in the atmosphere are among the numerous critical measurements that are at risk or simply will not occur if we follow the path of the President 2008 budget and the proposed out-year run out.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 Taking this path, we will also forgo the economic benefits that would have come, for example, from better management of energy and water, and improved weather predictions. Again, as my co-chair notes in his comments and testimony, without action on the report’s recommendations, a decades-long improvements in the skill in which we make weather forecasts will stall, or even reverse; this may be accompanied by diminished capacity to forecast severe weather events and manage disaster response and relief efforts. The nation’s capabilities to forecast space weather will also be at risk, with impacts on commercial aviation and space technology. The world is facing significant environmental challenges: shortages of clean and accessible freshwater, degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, increases in soil erosion, changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere, declines in fisheries, and the likelihood of significant changes in climate. These changes are occurring over and above the stresses imposed by the natural variability of a dynamic planet, as well as the effects of past and existing patterns of conflict, poverty, disease, and malnutrition. Further, these changes interact with each other and with natural variability in complex ways that cascade through the environment across local, regional, and global scales. In summary, absent a reversal of the present trends for Earth observation capabilities, we see the following: Weather forecasts: After decades of steady improvement, weather forecasts, including those of severe weather such as hurricanes, may become less accurate, putting more people at risk and diminishing the proven economic value of accurate forecasts. Earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanic eruptions: We risk missing early detection of these and other hazards. We also lose our ability to assess damage and mitigate the loss of further human life once they have occurred. Satellite monitoring of volcanic plumes, for example, has a very real impact on air traffic control. Water resources: We lose many of the needed observations to monitor the health of our water storage reservoirs, and predict droughts with sufficient time to mitigate their impact. Oceans: Sea level is rising and ice around the world is melting, yet there is uncertainty in how fast these are occurring and whether or not they are accelerating or decelerating. We will become less able address these issues, and assess their implications for our coastal communities. Climate: We are losing critical observations of the Earth system, the atmosphere, oceans, land, and ice needed to verify and improve the climate models. These models will be increasingly important to the U.S. economy because they best capture the likely patterns of future climate change and variability. Ecosystems: We lose the ability to assess the health of our forests, wetlands, coastal regions, fisheries, and farmlands and to determine the impact and effectiveness of regulations designed to protect our food supply. Health: Land-use, land cover, oceans, weather, climate, and atmospheric information observations, now used by public health officials to determine the effects of infectious diseases, skin cancers, chronic and acute illnesses resulting from contamination of air, food, and water are all at risk. As an example, air quality forecasts, which use the global perspective of satellites to identify pollution transport across borders, will become less accurate, with negative implications for both human health and urban pollution management efforts. I would like to thank the Committee for inviting me to testify, and I would be delighted to answer any further questions.