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SMC shield2. Trends and Drivers for Research

Trends and drivers consist of three types: Legal, Technology and Requirements. Legal drivers are the laws, mandates, and agreements that obligate NOAA to perform certain activities. The legal drivers specifically directed at SMCD programs are listed in this section.

Technology trends and drivers consist of the planned and expected advances in satellite instrument observing capabilities. By creating new capabilities, these technology drivers enable SMCD scientists to push the state of the art and develop enhanced and new satellite products and applications.

Requirements trends and drivers are the requirements for satellite-based information to achieve NOAA's strategic goals. These requirements are developed by the users of the satellite products and applications. NOAA's requirements for upgraded and new products are constantly becoming more demanding as it strives to improve its services.

Legal Drivers

Weather and Water

The "Great Waters" Section of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (Section 112(m), Title III) Atmospheric Deposition to Great Lakes and Coastal Waters: NOAA shall identify and assess the extent of deposition of atmospheric pollutants to significant water bodies.

The "Ecosystem Research" Section of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (Section 901(e), Title IX) : NOAA shall conduct a research program to improve understanding of the short-term and long-term causes, effects, and trends of ecosystems damage from air pollutants on ecosystems.

The Organic Act of October 1, 1890, which created the National Weather Bureau, established NOAA's mission to provide weather and water information and services to the Nation.

Federal Plan for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research FY2003 - Citation: Public Law 87-843 (1963 ), Federal Coordinator for Meteorology FCM-P1-2002 is a Congressional mandate providing for government research and development programs that directly support and improve meteorological services in an effective and efficient manner.

U.S. Weather Research Program (USWRP) Authorization Act: The U.S. Weather Research Program (USWRP) is mandated to accelerate forecast improvements of high impact weather and facilitate full use of advanced weather information.

Memorandum of Understanding between NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed by the Deputy Secretary of Commerce and the Administrator of EPA (May 2003): NOAA and EPA will collaborate on air quality research.

Memorandum of Agreement between NOAA and EPA signed by the Deputy Secretary of Commerce and the Administrator of EPA (May 2003): NOAA and EPA will collaborate on air quality forecasting. NOAA deliverables include improved air quality forecast models and air quality forecast guidance. EPA deliverables include providing emissions inventory and monitoring data.


  • Public Law 95-95, Clean Air Act Amendments, 1990. NOAA (and NASA) is required to "... continue programs of research, technology, and monitoring of the phenomena of the stratosphere for the purpose of understanding the physics and chemistry of the stratosphere and for early detection of potentially harmful changes in the ozone in the stratosphere ..." Further, NOAA (and NASA) is required to report "... on the current average tropospheric concentration of chlorine and bromine and on the level of stratospheric ozone depletion."
  • U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Plan (USGCRP, 1999) and associated implementation plans. This plan defined five goals, of which three pertain directly to NOAA expertise: "Quantify and understand the Northern Hemisphere terrestrial carbon sink", "Quantify and understand the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 in the ocean", and "Provide greatly improved projections of future atmospheric concentrations of CO2". NOAA's Climate Forcing Program is designed to help meet those goals.
  • The North American Carbon Program (2002). This plan defines major program elements needed to determine the carbon balance of North America and adjacent ocean basins. They include "Expand atmospheric monitoring: vertical concentration data, column CO 2 inventories, continuous measurements," "Conduct field campaigns over North America, and eventually over the adjacent oceans, using aircraft linked to enhanced flux tower networks and improved atmospheric transport models," and "Improve inverse models and strengthen connections between atmospheric model inferences and direct terrestrial and oceanic observations."
  • The Global Change Research Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-606, 15 U.S.C. 2921 et. seq.)
  • U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP)

Technology Drivers

Satellites already in the pipeline or planned will drive the types of research and applications activities that SMCD will undertake in the future. Figure 1 shows the schedule for launches of NOAA satellites to 2020. In addition to these, SMCD scientists will continue to experiment with and exploit research satellite data to support NOAA's services and to prepare for future operational satellite implementations.

Major trends in instrument technology that will challenge but offer new opportunities to SMCD scientists include:

  • Hyperspectral sounding and imaging instruments with finer wavelength, spatial, and temporal resolution, but with orders of magnitude for more data, that will provide atmospheric and surface measurements of unprecedented information content, timeliness, and detail.
  • Active instruments such as Global Positioning System/Radio Occultation (GPS/RO), Cloudsat, Precipitation Radars, Calipso, and Atmospheric Laser Doppler Instrument (ALADIN) that will provide detailed measurements of the vertical structure of the atmosphere, including temperature and moisture, cloud and precipitation properties, and aerosols.
  • New operational passive instruments such as the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Aerosol Polarimeter Sensor (NPOESS APS), Earth Radiation Budget Sensor (ERBS), and Total Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS), that will provide the first space-based information on aerosol composition and continue indefinitely into the future the observations of solar irradiance and Earth radiation budget initiated by NASA's research satellite.

SMCD scientists will exploit the capabilities of these advanced instruments to provide critical support to NOAA's Weather and Water, Climate, and Commerce/Transportation Strategic Goals. This will involve evaluation of the data and development of product, applications, and assimilation systems.

Figure 1 shows a timeline of launches of NOAA satellites and satellite missions in which NOAA is a partner; i.e., NPOESS and METOP (Meteorological Operations Platform). Major milestones in this series of launches will occur with the first launches of METOP, NPOESS, and GOES-R, when advanced and completely new instruments are introduced.

Figure 1: Schedule for Launches of NOAA Satellites through 2020

Initial Joint Polar System: NOAA-N, N' and METOP-1,2,3

NOAA and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites ( EUMETSAT) are working together to maintain continuity of polar orbiting operational environmental satellites. The Initial Joint Polar System (IJPS) will comprise the continuation of the current NOAA satellite series with NOAA-N and -N', together with the new EUMETSAT satellite series Metop-1, -2, -3, the first of which is scheduled for launch in 2005. Major instrument advances in the IJPS include: global Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) observations at 1 km horizontal resolution (compared to current sampled 4 km resolution) for detailed surface vegetation and ocean temperature measurements; first operational advanced IR sounders for high vertical resolution temperature and moisture structure, and the first operational GPS/OS system for observing the fine structure of atmospheric temperature in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.

Additional details on the IJPS payloads are contained in Appendix 1.


NPOESS will converge existing polar-orbiting satellite systems under a single national program. N POESS, with a first launch in 2009, will carry a new generation of environmental satellite instruments, some of which will be flown on a risk-reduction mission, NPOESS Preparatory Program (NPP), in 2006. These instruments will provide new capabilities in visible, infrared, and microwave imaging; infrared and microwave sounding; ozone mapping and profiling; and measurements of solar irradiance, the Earth's radiatition budget, and aerosols that make significant contributions to NOAA's Climate Goal.

Additional details on the NPP and NPOESS payloads are contained in Appendix 1.


The major Earth observing instruments of the GOES-R System, planned for launch in 2012, are: the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) and the Hyperspectral Environmental Suite (HES). The Advanced Baseline Sounder (ABS) will have 16 channels observing at higher spatial resolution and frequency than today's 5-channel GOES Imager. The HES will have 1500 IR sounding channels compared to the current 19 channel GOES sounder.

Research Satellites

SMCD also uses the observations of research satellite instruments to carry out its mission. Noteworthy current examples are the Atmospheric InfraRed Sounder (AIRS), Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) instruments on NASA's Earth Observation System (EOS) satellites, GPS/OS on the Challenging Mini Satellite Payload (CHAMP), and Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME) on European Remote Sensing (ERS-2). Research missions in the pipeline that will drive SMCD research include active instruments that will provide the first data on: the global, three dimensional distribution of hydrometeors, aerosols, and winds in the atmosphere; soil moisture; and time continuous monitoring of temperature, moisture, and winds from geostationary altitude.

Additional details on the NPP and NPOESS payloads are contained in Appendix 1.

Requirements Drivers

NOAA Weather and Water Goal: Serve Society's Needs for Weather and Water Information

SMCD Road Map FloodingFlooding and storm related damage account for $11 billion annually in the United States. One of NOAA's mission goals, to Serve Society's Needs for Weather and Water, has ultimately led to NOAA's increasing role in understanding, observing, forecasting, and warning of severe weather events.

SMCD must support NOAA's Weather and Water performance measures to increase lead time and accuracy for weather and water warnings and forecasts and improve predictability of the onset, duration, and impact of hazardous and severe weather and water events. Satellite observations already provide over 90% of the data used to initialize global forecast models. These data, together with improvement in data assimilation, NWP models, and computer power have enabled forecast accuracy to improve at a rate of about one day per decade over the last few decades - i.e., today's 5-day forecasts are as accurate as 4-day forecasts were just 10 years ago. But the data being used are largely for clear skies. There is a growing need to develop the tools to assimilate observations of cloudy and precipitating areas.

Protecting the public against environmental hazards demands increased awareness on the need to predict changes in people's exposure to extreme weather events, adverse air quality, and to hazardous pollutants. NOAA provides forecasts and warnings of various natural hazards related to the atmosphere and ocean and, is developing better understanding of the underlying environmental processes and predictive methodologies of natural hazards.

A primary air quality concern is the increasing human health risk associated with exposure to adverse air quality, and to hazardous pollutants. EPA and NOAA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Air Quality Research and the parallel Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Air Quality Forecasting on May 6, 2003. The major purpose of these agreements is to facilitate the routine preparation and dissemination of air quality forecasts. Satellite observations of low level pollutants such as smoke and other aerosols are needed as input to NWP modules specifically designed to make such air quality forecasts.

NOAA Climate Goal: Understand Climate Variability and Change to Enhance Society's Ability to Plan and Respond

NOAA's mission for the next century includes a bold new Climate Goal to Understand Climate Variability and Change to Enhance Society's Ability to Plan and Respond as one of four central goals. Strategies for achieving this goal include: 1) Improve the quality and quantity of climate observations, analyses, interpretation, and archiving by maintaining a consistent climate record and by improving our ability to determine why changes are taking place, and 2) Improve the quantification and understanding of the forces bringing about climate change by examining relevant human-induced increases in atmospheric constituents. SMCD will contribute to implementation of both strategies.

Under Strategy 1, SMCD is a co-lead of the Scientific Data Stewardship (SDS) component of the Climate Observations & Analysis Program of NOAA's Climate Goal. For environmental satellite observations, SDS priorities include:

  • Observing System Performance Monitoring
    • Documenting measurement practices and processing practices (metadata)
    • Providing feedback on observing system performance, including recommending corrective action for errant or non-optimal operations.
  • Climate Data Records
    • Reprocessing (incorporate new data, apply new algorithms, perform bias corrections, integrate/blend data sets from different sources or observing systems)
    • Inter-comparison of data sets for validation

Under Strategy 2, SMCD contributes to the objectives of the Climate Forcing Program of NOAA's Climate Goal, whose objectives are:

Reduce uncertainty in climate projections through timely information on the forcings and feedbacks contributing to changes in the Earth's climate:

  • Attain a timely understanding of atmospheric and oceanic carbon dioxide trends, both natural and human, that may be directly applied to climate projection and to policy decisions regarding climate management that are related to limiting unwanted effects of future climate change.
  • Provide timely and adequate information on the climate roles of the radiatively important trace atmospheric species (e.g., fine-particle aerosols and ozone) that is needed to broaden the suite of non-carbon options available for policy support regarding the climate change issue.

NOAA Commerce and Transportation Goal: Support the Nation's Commerce with Information for Safe, Efficient, and Environmentally Sound Transportation

Safe and efficient transportation systems are crucial to the U.S. economy. The Aviation Weather Program of the Commerce and Transportation Goal focuses on improving observation, forecast and training capabilities to deliver long term reduction in the number of weather related aviation mishaps and the number and extent of weather related flight delays. SMCD contributes to the Aviation Weather Program by developing tailored satellite-based aviation weather hazards products for the air transportation sector. SMCD is also responsible for providing technical support for integrating satellite observation products into aviation weather observation and forecast systems.

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