Global Earth Observations (5-24-05)
In July 2003, thirty-three nations plus the European Commission declared
their committment to building a comprehensive and coordinated earth
observation system. According to a ten year plan, satellites, ocean
buoys, and terrestrial measurement stations will be coordinated alongside
a new generation of monitoring systems such as unmanned drones. The
goal of the project is to vastly improve the quality of information
and knowledge about dynamic earth, ocean, and atmospheric processes
for a number of societal and ecological benefits. The project values
integration of observed information because of a shared understanding
about the interconnected systematic nature of earth processes.
On April 27, 2005 the National Research Council (NRC)
released an interim report on Earth
Observations and Applications From Space, which finds that
federal Earth science programs may be threatened by recent changes
in executive policy and federal budget support, particularly at NASA.
With the approaching FY 2006 and FY 2007 budgets, House Science Committee
staff requested the release of the NRC's initial findings to "provide
an early indication of urgent, near-term issues that may require attention"
before publication of the committee's final decadal survey, which
will be completed by the end of 2006.
The Council's report states that, "at NASA, the vitality of
Earth science and application programs has been placed at substantial
risk by a rapidly shrinking budget that no longer supports already-approved
missions and programs of high scientific and societal relevance."
Driven by the President's Vision for Space Exploration, NASA may be
jeopardizing other Presidential obligations, such as the Climate Change
Research Initiative and leadership in a Global Earth Observing System
of Systems (GEOSS).
The NRC makes several recommendations in the report to address several
delayed, descoped or canceled Earth observing satellite missions.
The NRC primarily recommends that the Global Precipitation Measurements
(GPM) mission be launched without delay and that the Atmospheric Sounding
from Geostationary Orbit (GIFTS) mission be launched by 2008. The
GPM mission is an international collaborative effort to improve climate,
weather, and hydrological predictions by taking more accurate and
frequent precipitation measurements. Intended to be the successor
to the successful Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), GPM
has been delayed several times by NASA. GIFTS will provide high-temporal-resolution
measurements of atmospheric temperatures and water vapor. These measurements
will help with the detection of rapid atmospheric changes associated
with destructive weather events. Built at a cost of about $100 million,
GIFTS has been canceled for a variety of reasons.
The report also urges that the Ocean Vector Winds, Landsat Data Continuity
and Glory missions be reconsidered. The Ocean Vector Winds mission
will monitor global ocean surface vector winds, which have implications
for enhanced severe storm warning and El Nino predictions. Landsat
has successfully collected data on Earth's continental surfaces for
over 30 years, supporting science research, state and local governments
with the longest continuous record of the changing Earth's surface
as seen from space. The Glory mission was developed to measure aerosol
properties and quantify their effect on climate. Aerosols are a significant
source of uncertainty in climate predictions. Glory would also monitor
the total solar irradiance or how the Sun's energy output varies to
help estimate the effects of solar variations on climate change.
On May 28, 2005, the House Science Committee held a hearing
to address the shortfalls in federal Earth Science programs as set
forth by the NRC. Click
here to read the Committee's hearing charter. (5/24/05)
At the third Earth Observation Summit in Brussels on February 16,
2005 sixty nations agreed to expand and integrate their own earth
observing capabilities into a single, global data-sharing network
and all-hazards warning system. This Global Earth Observation System
of Systems (GEOSS) was also endorsed by forty international organizations
at the summit. (2/21/05)
At a Washington, D.C. summit on July 31, 2003, thirty-three nations
plus the European Commission adopted a declaration that signifies
political commitment to move toward development of a comprehensive,
coordinated, and sustained Earth observation system(s). According
to the Group on Earth Observations,
"The participants affirmed the need for timely, quality, long-term,
global information as a basis for sound decision making. In order
to monitor continuously the state of the Earth, to increase understanding
of dynamic Earth processes, to enhance prediction of the Earth system,
and to further implement environmental treaty obligations, participants
recognized the need to support the creation of a comprehensive, coordinated,
and sustained Earth observing system or systems." Another summit
took place in Tokyo, Japan, in April 2004, where the Framework Document
for a 10-Year Implementation Plan for hatched. The project was officially
named the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).
In September of 2004, the Bush administration gave the green light
to the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System (IEOS), the U.S. component
of GEOSS. On September 8, 2004, the National Science and Technology
Council's Interagency Working
Group on Earth Observations (IWGEO), comprising representatives
from 16 U.S. federal agencies, released its Draft
Strategic Plan, a preliminary blueprint for the construction and
integration of global observational technology over the next 10 years.
The U.S. co-chairs GEOSS along with the European Commission, Japan,
and South Africa. Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher Jr., the head administrator
of NOAA, and Chip Groat, Director of USGS, lead the U.S. delegation.
They and the delegations from the participating countries will meet
in February 2005 in Brussels to further coordinate the international
Scott Rayder, the Chief of Staff for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration told Greenwire on September 9, "While not
strictly a climate change program, expanding climate observations
is a key driver of EOS
we need more data, and we need better
data on how the systems on the planet work". In addition to climate
observation, the report outlines nine principle benefits to society
including improved monitoring and managing of natural disasters, ecosystem
health and diversity, ocean and fresh water resources, and disease
control. Rayder told Greenwire that U.S. investment in the IEOS will
probably range in the billions of dollars as it envisions a significant
leap forward in observational technology in the next decade.
Sources: Interagency Working Group on Earth Observations, Group on
Earth Observations, Greenwire
Contributed by David R. Millar 2004 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern, Katie Ackerly,
2005 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern, and Amanda Schneck, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer
Please send any comments or requests
for information to AGI Government Affairs
Last updated on May 24, 2005.