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A Framework for Analyzing the Needs for Continuity of NASA-Sustained Remote Sensing Observations of the Earth from Space

Statement of Task

An ad-hoc committee will develop a framework to assist NASA's Earth Science Division (ESD) in their determinations of when a measurement(s) or dataset(s) should be collected for durations longer than the typical lifetimes of single satellite missions. Although focused on the particular needs of NASA's Earth Science Division, the committee will consider the relevant current and planned Earth observation programs of NOAA and the USGS. In addition, the committee will review existing NASA policy regarding the scope of its Earth Science Program; the 2007 NRC decadal survey, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond; and the 2010 NASA report, Responding to the Challenge of Climate and Environment Change: NASA's Plan for a Climate-Centric Architecture for Earth Observations and Applications from Space.

The committee will seek to provide guidance to NASA that will be broadly applicable under a variety of scenarios that might unfold over decadal timeframes. In particular, and considering the expected constrained budgets for the NASA earth science program, the committee will:

  1. Provide working definitions of, and describe the roles for “continuity” for the measurements and datasets ESD initiates and uses to accomplish Earth system science objectives;
  2. Establish methodologies and/or metrics that can be used by NASA to inform strategic programmatic decisions regarding the scope and design of its observation and processing systems:
    1. In the context of limited resources and recognizing the programmatic and fiscal tension between the scientific benefits of providing sustained measurements on the one hand, and developing and demonstrating new or improved measurements on the other hand, determine whether a measurement(s) should be collected for extended periods, and provide guidance concerning methods to determine the appropriate balance between cost, risk, and performance when addressing continuity needs for specific measurements; and
    2. Prioritize the relative importance of measurements that are to be collected for extended periods;
    3. Identify the characteristics of, and extent to which, data gaps and/or accuracy/sampling/stability degradations are acceptable for existing and planned datasets;
  3. In addition, where appropriate in addressing the Statement of Task, the committee may:
    1. Examine other means for achieving effective continuity such as alternative, non-space-based instrument platforms;
    2. Examine the potential enhancements or degradations in the scientific utility of information products that might result from combining multiple measurement sources (versus single-mission or single-instrument information products); and,

Provide illustrations of how the proposed framework might be applied to evaluate either the present NASA-ESD Climate-Centric Architecture, or used in the creation of recommendations for the upcoming decadal survey in Earth science and applications from space.

This project is being sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

More information on this project may be viewed on our current projects website

Committee Meetings

November 12-14, 2013
Washington, DC
View Agenda 

January 29-31, 2014
Washington, DC
View Agenda

Committee members

View Bios

Byron D. Tapley - (Chair)
The University of Texas at Austin

Michael D. King - (Vice Chair)
University of Colorado Boulder

Mark R. Abbott
Oregon State University

Steven A. Ackerman
University of Wisconsin-Madison

John J. Bates
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Rafael L. Bras
Georgia Institute of Technology

Robert E. Dickinson
The University of Texas at Austin

Randall R. Friedl
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Lee-Lueng Fu
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Chelle L. Gentemann
Remote Sensing Systems

Kathryn A. Kelly
University of Washington

Judith L. Lean
Naval Research Laboratory

Joyce E. Penner
University of Michigan

Michael J. Prather
University of California, Irvine

Eric J. Rignot
University of California, Irvine

William L. Smith
Hampton University

Compton J. Tucker
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Bruce A. Wielicki
NASA Langley Research Center


Arthur Charo, Senior Program Officer
Lewis Groswald, Associate Program Officer
Andrea Rebholz, Program Associate

Available Presentations

November 12-14, 2013

Tom Karl
Tim Newman

January 30, 2014

Toshiyoshi Kimura
Duane Waliser
Thomas Piekutowsky
Stella Melo