The panel's evaluation of existing climate records, using these ten principles, shows that only about half of the principles are being followed for some of the variables most useful for climate change detection and attribution. For other records, only one or two principles are being followed adequately. The application of all but one of the principles of climate monitoring needs improvement.
If federal agencies are to serve society's needs for well-informed climate decisions, they should strive to preserve the value of the past climate record and to build improved and more valuable climate records in the future. Although this report focuses on existing observational systems, especially those with long data records, it is important to stress that this represents only a part of the needs for climate data. Programs to develop new records also should be undertaken, and should take advantage of such new technology as geostationary and polar orbiting satellites.
A word of caution, however: for many years, satellite remote sensing has been suggested as the answer to climate monitoring. Indeed, the growing emphasis on operational mesoscale weather observing and forecasting initiatives inevitably will lead to a growing reliance on remote sensing—both surface- and space-based. If, in the process, in situ networks such as the radiosonde are reduced in size or importance, there could be a large negative impact on the ability to assess climate and climate change. The panel recognizes that many of the atmospheric observations in ocean areas can be provided only by global systems such as satellites. At the moment, however, there is only sketchy information on the suitability of remotely sensed data as a source for climate change detection and attribution. Some studies have shown a positive impact of