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in the President's 2011 budget to support a 2013 launch of Jason-3, a joint effort between NOAA and EUMETSAT (the European meteorological satellite program), as part of a transition of satellite altimetry from research to "operational" status. Researchers hope to avoid a gap in the satellite record because measurements from tide gauges and other satellite measurements would not be sufficient to accurately determine the bias between the two time series on either side of the gap. It should also be emphasized that ocean altimetry, despite the challenges of ensuring overlap and continuity, is on a much better trajectory than many other important climate observations, as described in the text.

Trends (mm/year) in sea level change over 1993-2007 from TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 altimeter measurements. SOURCE: Courtesy of Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, University of Colorado at Boulder (http://sea-level.colorado.edu).

a Material in this box is adapted from Ensuring the Climate Record from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: Elements of a Strategy to Recover Measurement Capabilities Lost in Program Restructuring (NRC, 2008d). b Also called the Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2.

FIGURE 4.3 Number of U.S. space-based Earth observation missions (left) and instruments (right) in the current decade. An emphasis on climate and weather is evident, as is a decline in the number of missions near the end of the decade. For the period from 2007 to 2010, missions were generally assumed to operate for 4 years past their nominal lifetimes. SOURCE: NIRC (2007c), based on information from NASA and NOAA websites for mission durations.

FIGURE 4.3 Number of U.S. space-based Earth observation missions (left) and instruments (right) in the current decade. An emphasis on climate and weather is evident, as is a decline in the number of missions near the end of the decade. For the period from 2007 to 2010, missions were generally assumed to operate for 4 years past their nominal lifetimes. SOURCE: NIRC (2007c), based on information from NASA and NOAA websites for mission durations.

Over the past decade, a wide range of problems have plagued the maintenance and development of environmental satellites. In response to a request from several federal agencies, the NRC conducted a "decadal survey" in 2004-2006 to generate consensus recommendations from the Earth and environmental science and applications communities regarding a systems approach to space-based (and ancillary) observations. The interim report of the decadal survey (NRC, 2005b) described the national system of environmental satellites as being "at risk of collapse." That judgment was based on a sharp decline in funding for Earth observation missions and the consequent cancellation, descoping, and delay of a number of critical satellite missions and instruments. An additional concern expressed in the interim report was attracting and training scientists and engineers and providing opportunities for them to exploit new technology and apply new theoretical understanding in the pursuit of both discovery science and high-priority societal applications.

These concerns only increased in the 2 years following the publication of the interim report as additional missions and sensors were cancelled. The final decadal survey report (NRC, 2007c) presented near- and longer-term recommendations to address these troubling trends. The report outlined near-term actions meant to stem the tide of capability deterioration and continue critical data records, as well as forward-looking recommendations to establish a balanced Earth observation program designed to directly address the most urgent societal challenges (see Figure 4.3). The final report also noted the lack of clear agency responsibility for sustained research programs and for transitioning proof-of-concept measurements into sustained measurement systems (see Box 4.6).

The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) was created in 1994 to merge various military and civil meteorological and environmental monitoring programs. Unfortunately, by 2005, cost overruns triggered a mandatory

BOX 4.6

The Development of a Long-Term, Space-Based Earth Observation Systema

"There is a crisis not only with respect to climate change . . . but also [with respect to] the absence of a coherent, coordinated federal environmental policy to address the challenges. In the nearest term possible, aging space- and ground-based environmental sensors must be replaced with technologically improved instruments. Beyond replacing aging instruments, there is a need to enhance continuity in the observations, so that policy makers, informed by science, will have the necessary tools to detect trends in important Earth indicators and craft wise and effective long-term policies. However, continuity, or sustained long-term observations, is not an explicitly stated requirement for either the 'operational' or 'research' space systems that are typically associated with [NOAA] and [NASA] programs, respectively.

The present federal agency paradigm of 'research to operations' with respect to NASA and NOAA is obsolete and nearly dysfunctional, in spite of best efforts by both agencies. This paradigm currently has NASA developing and demonstrating new observational techniques and measurements deemed useful for prediction or other applications. These are then transitioned to NOAA (or sometimes DOD) and used on a sustained, multi-decadal basis. However, this paradigm is not working for a number of reasons. The two agencies have responsibilities that are in many cases mismatched with their authorities and resources: institutional mandates are inconsistent with agency charters; budgets are not well matched to the needs; agency responsibilities are not clearly defined, and shared responsibilities are supported inconsistently by ad hoc mechanisms for cooperation. . . . A new paradigm of 'research and operations' is urgently needed to meet the challenge of vigilant monitoring of all aspects of climate change. . . .

Our ability as a nation to sustain climate observations has been complicated by the fact that no single agency has both the mandate and requisite budget for providing ongoing climate observations, prediction, and services. While interagency collaborations are sometimes valuable, a robust, effective program of Earth observations from space requires specific responsibilities to be clearly assigned to each agency and adequate resources provided to meet these responsibilities."

a Excerpted from testimony by Richard A. Anthes, President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Past President, American Meteorological Society, and Co-Chair, Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space (2003-2007), before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives, March 19, 2009.

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