BOX 2.1

Goals of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program

Goal 1:

Improve knowledge of Earth’s past and present climate and environment, including its natural variability, and improve understanding of the causes of observed variability and change.

Goal 2:

Improve quantification of the forces bringing about changes in Earth’s climate and related systems.

Goal 3:

Reduce uncertainty in projections of how Earth’s climate and related systems may change in the future.

Goal 4:

Understand the sensitivity and adaptability of different natural and managed ecosystems and human systems to climate and related global changes.

Goal 5:

Explore the uses and identify the limits of evolving knowledge to manage risks and opportunities related to climate variability and change.

SOURCE: The U.S. Climate Change Science Program Factsheet, available at

  • Improved understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological processes that are involved in climate variability and change.

In performing its prioritization, the committee was cognizant of the scientific importance of maintaining long-term records of forcing and improving understanding of the climate system through starting or continuing records of responses. It also recognized the challenges of finding an appropriate balance between observations of climate forcing and response, and between sustained observations and improved “process” understanding. The committee also notes that its interpretation of the research agenda for climate-related issues is consistent with the five goals of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (Box 2.1).

The prioritization exercise was conducted during a December 17-19, 2007, meeting of the committee. The exercise was guided by the following overarching principles:

  • The objective of the committee’s deliberations would be to prioritize restoration of climate capabilities. For example, a sensor with the capability to improve resolution of fast climate processes is of interest to both the weather forecast and climate research communities; however, it is the value to the latter that informs the committee’s ranking.

  • The particular recovery strategy and the cost of recovery of a measurement/sensor would not be a factor in the ranking.3

  • Measurements/sensors on NPOESS would not be ranked against measurements/sensors on GOES-R; however, the criteria used in the ranking would be identical.

  • When it was relevant, judgments would be made according to the measurement objectives of a particular sensor, and not the sensor itself. Thus, for example, members of the committee considered the importance of radar altimetry to climate science, rather than the importance of the particular implementation of this capability on NPOESS, that is, the ALT instrument.


The committee did not have access to an ongoing NASA-NOAA study that is examining the costs of various recovery strategies.

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