collection issues relevant to a multiagency program. The chapter also discusses other aspects of roles 3 (e.g., modeling and computation), 4 (international partnerships), and 5 (state and local government partnerships) needed to promote an end-to-end approach to climate change. Finally, communications and decision support (role 6) are discussed in NRC (2007c) and NRC (2009), respectively. Below, we focus on only one aspect of this latter issue—climate services—which is under active discussion in Congress and by the CCSP agencies.


Observations are the foundation of climate change research programs. Climate observations and associated climate data records are used to improve our understanding of processes, to monitor the changing climate, to understand how the natural and social systems interact and how these interactions contribute and respond to climate change, and to evaluate the effectiveness of policies to mitigate, cope with, and adapt to climate change (e.g., NRC, 1999a, 2000). The observational components needed for climate research and applications, including ground-based and satellite measurements and socioeconomic surveys, are collectively referred to as a climate observing system.

NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS), designed in 1988, is the closest thing the United States has had to the satellite component of a climate observing system. Originally conceived as three series of satellites to provide sustained, long-term measurements of physical climate and other global variables—complemented by ground-, aircraft-, balloon-, and ship-based measurements (ESSC, 1988)—the project was greatly scaled back. In the end, only the first series of satellites were flown and several planned variables (e.g., those related to geological processes) were never measured. Nevertheless, the data from the EOS satellites, as well as myriad remote-sensing and in situ observing programs operated by other agencies and countries, provided the foundation on which many CCSP successes were built (NRC, 2007c, 2008a).

The need for a systematic and comprehensive approach to collecting climate observations has taken on new urgency with the

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