Careful Comprehensive Review Should Be Undertaken to Identify Current and Planned Observational Assets and Identify Critical Climate Monitoring and Measurement Needs

An observing system strategy for the new era of climate change research will need to consider not only existing and planned assets, which have largely been developed by the scientific community without much input from decision makers, but also the observations needed to support effective responses to climate change. In considering available resources and data sources, federal programs should work with international partners to identify opportunities for collaboration, leveraging, and synergy with observational systems in other countries. A special effort should be made to evaluate observations and databases from areas that have historically been neglected. Where possible, the review should consider assets in the intelligence community that could serve scientific purposes without compromising national security interests. Finally, the climate observing system should be coordinated with other environmental and social data collection efforts to take advantage of synergies and ensure interoperability.

The federal climate change research program (see Recommendation 5) is the entity best suited to lead a comprehensive assessment of current and planned observational assets and needs in support of climate research. However, the research community will need to work closely with a broad range of responsible entities and stakeholders, including programs for adapting to, limiting the magnitude of, and supporting effective decisions related to climate change, to ensure that the scope and structure of the observing system can support both fundamental research on and responses to climate change. Such partnerships are critical in light of the costs of creating and maintaining a comprehensive and long-term observing system. As the recent problems with NPOESS have demonstrated (NRC, 2008d), planning for climate observations will require clearly defined roles and responsibilities of the partners and a systems approach to the design of the overall architecture of the observing system.

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