by mechanisms for cooperation. These are issues whose solutions will require action at high levels of the federal government” (NRC, 2007, p. 13). In turn, this prompted one of the report’s most important recommendations: “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” (p. 14). The present committee fully endorses the need for clarified agency roles and responsibilities, consistent with inherent agency strengths, and reiterates this important recommendation of the decadal survey.

International Coordination

The committee recognizes the importance of international cooperation in obtaining climate-quality measurements from space; the absence of an internationally agreed upon and ratified strategy for climate observations from space remains an area of grave concern. The research and operational agencies should coordinate their development, operations, standards, and products with international partners.

Community Involvement in the Development of Climate Data Records

The NRC has produced a number of reports on the subject of climate data records (CDRs), many having been motivated by concerns over the future availability of satellite-based climate-quality data records. The implied demise of climate-focused satellite observations from NPOESS, a consequence of the Nunn-McCurdy certification, adds to the ongoing concern about the lack of organized commitment to CDR development. It has been stressed in many NRC and other reports that generation of CDRs requires considerable scientific insight, including the blending of multiple sources of data; error analysis; and access to raw data. On the basis of its review of previous NRC studies and its own experience, the committee identified a number of particularly important elements for a sustained long-term program dedicated to developing credible CDRs. These elements are discussed in Chapter 4.

Finally, it is important to note that community concerns about the adequacy of NPOESS for climate research existed even before the 2006 program restructuring. For example, in the 2007 NRC decadal survey Earth Science and Applications from Space (NRC, 2007, p. 263), the report from the Panel on Climate Variability and Change concluded that, “Regardless of the descoping, the NPOESS program lacks essential features of a well-designed climate-observing system.”


Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research. 2003. Strategic Plan for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. Available at

NRC (National Research Council). 1999a. Adequacy of Climate Observing Systems. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

NRC. 1999b. “Assessment of NASA’s Plans for Post-2002 Earth Observing Missions,” letter report. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., April 8.

NRC. 2006. A Review of NASA’s 2006 Draft Science Plan: Letter Report, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

NRC. 2007. Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

NRC. 2008. Options to Ensure the Climate Record from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: A Workshop Report. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

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