review of the NPOESS program, resulting in reductions in the number of planned satellite acquisitions as well as reductions in the instruments carried on each platform— with climate-related sensors suffering the majority of the cuts, in part because of conflicting agency priorities. More recently, there have been several efforts to restore some of the lost sensor capabilities. However, these short-term, stop-gap measures are only designed to preserve the most critical long-term records and do not represent a long-term, comprehensive strategy to observe critical climate and climate-related processes and trends from space (NRC, 2008d). The President's 2011 budget seeks to restructure the NPOESS program, but details were not available in time to inform the development of this report. An additional blow to the nation's Earth observing program was the July 2009 launch failure of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), which was expected to provide high-resolution satellite-based measurements of CO2 and other GHGs (NRC, 2009h). The President's 2011 budget request for NASA includes $170 million for a reflight of the OCO mission, which will be called OCO-2.
Given the global scope of satellite observations and the expense of designing, launching, and operating satellites, the decadal survey (NRC, 2007c) and other reviews call for international coordination as a key component of the nation's satellite observation strategy. Collaborations with other nations not only save scarce resources for all partners, they also promote scientific collaboration and sharing of ideas among the international scientific community. However, international collaborations come at a cost. Any time partners are involved, control must be shared, and the success of the mission depends critically on the performance of all partners. A successful collaboration also requires assurance that data will be shared and that U.S. scientists are full partners on teams that ensure adequate prelaunch instrument characterization and postlaunch instrument calibration and validation.
Finally, there is a wealth of classified data that have been and continue to be collected by the intelligence community that could potentially provide useful information on understanding the nature and impacts of climate change. Declassified data from the 1960s have already been used for this purpose with great success (Csatho et al., 1999; Joughin et al., 2002; Stokes et al., 2006). More recently, a large amount of sea ice imagery was released for scientific study (NRC, 2009l). Given the importance of the climate change challenge, and the recent struggles of the civilian satellite program, the climate science community should take advantage of such data sets to the extent that they can be made available for scientific purposes.
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