No hiding this decline – NAS/NRC report: ‘U.S. system of environmental satellites is at risk of collapse.’

The National Research Council via the National Academies Press, released a report yesterday that summarized the state of environmental satellite monitoring: Earth Science and Applications from Space: A Midterm Assessment of NASA’s Implementation of the Decadal Survey

USA Today reports that: “The number and capability of weather satellites circling the planet “is beginning a rapid decline” and tight budgets have significantly delayed or eliminated missions to replace them, says a National Research Council analysis out Wednesday.” I located the report, and the plots they provided:

image image

FIGURE S.1 Number of operating (2000-2011) and planned (2012-2020) NASA and NOAA Earth observing missions (left and instruments (right). Click for larger images.

It seems the interest in environmental monitoring from space isn’t a priority anymore, and is about to head down the hill as platforms and instruments die by attrition (AQUA’s AMSRE failure used for sea ice is a good example).  Here’s the NRC summary of the whole report:

Summary
Understanding the complex, changing planet on which we live, how it supports life, and how human activities affect its ability to do so in the future is one of the greatest intellectual challenges facing humanity. It is also one of the most important challenges for society as it seeks to achieve prosperity, health, and sustainability.1

The 2007 National Research Council report Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond (referred to in this report as the “2007 decadal survey” or “2007 survey”) called for a renewal of the national commitment to a program of Earth observations in which attention to securing practical benefits for humankind plays an equal role with the quest to acquire new knowledge about the Earth system.2 The decadal survey recommended a balanced interdisciplinary program that would observe the atmosphere, oceans, terrestrial biosphere, and solid Earth and the interactions between these Earth system components to advance understanding of how the system functions for the benefit of both science and society.

NASA responded positively to the decadal survey and its recommendations and began implementing most of them immediately after the survey’s release. Although its budgets have never risen to the levels assumed in the survey, NASA’s Earth Science Division (ESD) has made major investments toward the missions recommended by the survey and has realized important technological and scientific progress as a result. Several of the survey missions have made significant advances, and operations and applications end users are better integrated into the mission teams. The new Earth Venture competitive
solicitation program has initiated five airborne missions and is currently reviewing proposals submitted in response to an orbital stand-alone mission solicitation. At the same time, the Earth sciences have advanced significantly because of existing observational capabilities and the fruit of past investments, along with advances in data and information systems, computer science, and enabling technologies. Three missions already in development prior to the decadal survey—the Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM), Aquarius, and the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP)3—have since been successfully launched and promise significant benefits to research and applications. The potential for the science community to make use of space-based data for research and applications has never been greater.

Finding: NASA responded favorably and aggressively to the decadal survey, embracing its overall recommendations for Earth observations, missions, technology investments, and priorities for the underlying science. As a consequence, the science and applications communities have made significant progress over the past 5 years.

However, for several reasons, the Committee on Assessment of NASA’s Earth Science Program found that the survey vision is being realized at a far slower pace than was recommended.

NASA accepted and began implementing the survey’s recommendations, the required budget assumed by the survey was not achieved, greatly slowing implementation of the recommended program. Launch failures, delays, changes in scope, and cost estimate growth have further hampered the program. In addition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has made significant reductions in scope to the nation’s future operational environmental satellite series, omitting observational capabilities assumed by the decadal survey to be part of NOAA’s future capability and failing to implement the three new missions recommended for NOAA implementation by the survey (the Operational GPS Radio Occultation Mission, the Extended Ocean Vector Winds Mission, and the NOAA portion of CLARREO).

Thus, despite recent and notable successes, such as the launches of OSTM, Aquarius, and Suomi NPP, the nation’s Earth observing capability from space is beginning to wane as older missions fail and are not replaced with sufficient cadence to prevent an overall net decline. The committee found that the number of NASA and NOAA Earth observing instruments in space is likely to decline to as little as 25 percent of the current number by 2020 (Figure S.1).4 This precipitous decline in the quantity of Earth science and applications observations from space undertaken by the United States reinforces the conclusion in the decadal survey and its predecessor, the 2005 interim report (NRC, 2005), which declared that the U.S. system of environmental satellites is at risk of collapse. The committee found that a rapid decline in capability is now beginning and that the needs for both investment and careful stewardship of the U.S. Earth observations enterprise are more certain and more urgent now than they were 5 years ago.

Finding: The nation’s Earth observing system is beginning a rapid decline in capability as longrunning missions end and key new missions are delayed, lost, or canceled.

The projected loss of observing capability could have significant adverse consequences for science and society. The loss of observations of key Earth system components and processes will weaken the ability to understand and forecast changes arising from interactions and feedbacks within the Earth system and limit the data and information available to users and decision makers. Consequences are likely to include slowing or even reversal of the steady gains in weather forecast accuracy over many years and degradation of the ability to assess and respond to natural hazards and to measure and understand changes in Earth’s climate and life support systems. The decrease in capability by 2020 will also have far-reaching consequences for the vigor and breadth of the nation’s space-observing industrial and academic base, endangering the pipeline of Earth science and aerospace engineering students and the health of the future workforce.

1 From National Research Council, Earth Science and Applications from Space: Urgent Needs and Opportunities to Serve the Nation, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 1. 2 National Research Council, Earth Science and Applications from Space: Urgent Needs and Opportunities to
Serve the Nation, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005.
3 On January 24, 2012, NASA’s National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, launched on October 28, 2011, was renamed the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership in honor of the late Verner E. Suomi, a renowned meteorologist from the University of Wisconsin considered by many
to be “the father of satellite meteorology.” See http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/NPP/news/suomi.html.

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I asked Dr. Julienne Stroeve of NSIDC about this “…is the DMSP program (which NSIDC ses) going to be affected as well?” and she replied:

DMSP shouldn’t be affected, but the US is quickly falling behind with our satellite missions. We are having to turn more and more to the Europeans and others for satellite data.

59 thoughts on “No hiding this decline – NAS/NRC report: ‘U.S. system of environmental satellites is at risk of collapse.’

  1. Satellites fall out of orbit……that explains adjusting measured sea levels up

    Just like adjusting temps up…..for UHI

    …and adjusting past temps down

  2. The less we can directly measure, the more baseless assertions about ‘Global Warming’ can be made. Land data has inherent inaccuracies that must be adjusted for and can be fiddled with. Aside from initial calibration, satellite records can’t be messed with.

  3. S Basinger says:
    May 3, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Exactly. Seems as though they didn’t like the data being collected. But it also fits with weakening the power, leadership role, and prestige of the US. That forces us into the world community. Yes, a world community run by two-bit dictators and corrupt bureaucrats, and paid for by world taxation (coming soon to a nation near you).

    I have to say, one of the funniest comments I’ve read on WUWT or anywhere was the one in which the question was raised, “who won WWII?” They pointed out Britain was at least partly ruled by a government in “German-occupied Belgium”. I laugh now, but it’s only going to get more pathetic before, and if, it gets better.

  4. Well, the satellites may be falling from the sky, but that is not the real issue. You see our muslim outreach program is auguring in and we have to have priorities so…

  5. S Basinger says:
    May 3, 2012 at 8:40 am

    The less we can directly measure, the more baseless assertions about ‘Global Warming’ can be made. Land data has inherent inaccuracies that must be adjusted for and can be fiddled with. Aside from initial calibration, satellite records can’t be messed with.
    _______________________
    My thoughts exactly. You beat me to it. NASA and NOAA or rather their handlers do not want satellite records. They certainly do not want anymore Dr Spencers and news articles like New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism

  6. Since the current crop of climate scientists have screwed up the science so bad, why do we take a break from trying to proved how bad mankind is and how much he has screw up the environment, and redirect the billions of dollars now targeted at global warming research toward collecting actual valid climate data. A couple of decades of good, reliable data (e.g., Argo and systems like it) might do wonders for our knowledge about Earth’s climate system.

  7. The transformation of NASA from the world’s shining scientific light to a tool of AGW propaganda and political expediency, is perhaps the saddest chapter yet, in America’s scientific and technological history. It is also a symptom of America’s increasing dependency on foreign countries for space exploration and science, something which began several years ago but is being exacerbated greatly by the current Administration’s policies.

  8. Something’s rotten in the state of America. WIth record deficits, one is obliged to ask where the money is going

  9. Who needs satellites, models can give us the same data and do it cheaper? Right?

    /sarc

  10. 1. Many other programs and activities US folks have thought worth funding with tax money will likewise decline in the coming years. Look up out-of-control entitlements. Then examine the size of the demographic cohorts moving into the age classes where such payments skyrocket.

    2. This is somewhat like commenting on the default map projections used in “climate science” reporting: The charts provided are shown as though the thing of interest is a continuous variable. Temperature is an example, as would be tree ring widths. “Missions” and “instruments” are discrete data. Such ought to be displayed with a more appropriate chart type, say a bar chart. Folks preparing documents for the National Research Council should be expected to do better. I’ll snip the remainder of this thought so as to not invite addition wayward comments.

  11. Wow, the important news just keeps flowing, but is invisible to most of the population because the mass media doesn’t want most to know the real truths of our time.

    Anthony, when can we expect to have WUWT- webTV, or WUWT- webRadio, or WUWT -tube for visual and interactive analysis of each of the very important gems that come from this source of consolidated (and hard to find in the mass media) info?

    I really think the opportunity to grow this site/platform/knowledge stream is at hand. More importantly, sharing information to counter so much long term disinformation is essential to educating the public of the frauds and fallocy that they have been spoon fed for decades.

    I still am an interested investor. A nice small studio, enhanced bandwidth, couple more servers and poof, there ya go :)

  12. What about that TRILLION dollar stimulus? Surely there is some left for new satellites. If not, bring in the forensic accountants!

  13. Well instead of spending billions on worthless green companies (notice I said green companies and not tech) it should have been spend on weather and land use satellites. Then we could have had the best monitoring system ever. /SARC But I guess they didn’t because then they would have too much data to manipulate ,/SARC OFF

  14. I agree with what S Basinger says: May 3, 2012 at 8:40 am. Reduce the hardware necassary for the determination that the earth is cooling, meanwhile fiddle with current temp records lower the past and rasing the present and state because of the decline in the hardware floating in space that they will use models to record future temps and they can keep up the ruse. No one on any blog I read has ever said that they don’t believe in climate change, I do, I just don’t think that we yet have enough understanding of the entire system, especially to blame it on a trace gas. But, we as humans have a huge ego and think we can control anything and everything.

    Heck, lets start small, lets first control localized events, say tornados. Lets keep them from happening, then we can move on to bigger and better things like hurricanes! From there we can move to control volcanos and earthquakes!!

    I think once we’ve mastered these, we can then control climate! yeah, that’s the ticket.

    Or you can believe as I, that we (the human race) are just along for the ride.

  15. GOES 11 satellite as of Feb 28, 2011 got knocked out due to budget constraints. It monitored the sun and solar wind activity.

    Not exactly comforting. All due to NOAA budget cuts.

  16. Are satellites and space a concern for NASA directors anymore? Satellite problems are probably just a PITA and distracting them from their Muslim outreach programs. ;-)

  17. The pattern of relying on models rather than data has two benefits for the warmists: skeptics can’t look inside the computers, and if reality becomes too much reality and not enough expectation, the problem lies with the computers, not with the people.

    You can drop a model and say the computer or variables were insufficient. If you have data, you have to say you fiddled with it or misinterpreted it.

    Having machines to blame is a get out of jail free card.

    At the defining sea battle between the Brits and France, with Napoleon, Admiral Nelson put his blind eye to the telescope and said he saw no signals telling him to withdraw from the battle. He persevered, and now we order a bottle of champagne in English, not French. If Jones and Hansen have to rely on models, not data, they will be like Nelson: they will be able to say they see nothing, so can continue the fight.

    Nelson hoped he would win when others saw loss. He was right. I’m sure Hansen, Gore and Suzuki are also believers in their ultimate victory. Trouble is, none of them are what Nelson was.

  18. S Basinger says:
    May 3, 2012 at 8:40 am

    The less we can directly measure, the more baseless assertions about ‘Global Warming’ can be made. Land data has inherent inaccuracies that must be adjusted for and can be fiddled with. Aside from initial calibration, satellite records can’t be messed with.

    So would a thermometer (instrument for measuring temperature) be more reliable if it were actually immersed in the medium it was measuring, or viewing it from space?

  19. Well as the data coming from the satellites disagreed with the surface stations it was obviously wrong and not worth supporting.

  20. This is in part fallout from the destruction of science by the eco-weirdos. Science, especially environmental science has fallen into ill repute. Imagine a congressman making a speech bragging about spending money on another tool of the green movement to “help save the earth”…. He’d be laughed out of office except in San Francisco and Boston.

    No Bucks…. No Buck Rogers.

    Science will need a facelift to regain its respect…. and therefore its funding.

  21. When there is no satelites, we have to believe ground measurements. ( Adjusted) If you freezing it,s just local weather. LOL

  22. So does this mean the only accurate, non-biased, system we have for measuring global temps is collapsing? I guess funding climate science is only important if it supports the alarmist viewpoint. :(

  23. In ten or fifteen years time (when maybe there’s a bit of spare cash lying around) scientists will demand state of the art satellites to get better and more accurate measurements. I suppose it’ll be after the team are gone, the politics has moved on and the scare has passed.
    The models look daft already, they are likely to continue on that path. The science still needs to be done.

  24. I don’t know, it has been my experience that satellites tend to last about 10 years longer than anyone thinks they will (with good ground station management). We can fix this, but not with leadership that sees the treasury as a means to buy votes rather than as money used to fund essential roles of the government.

    I do fear though that part of this is by design. If we aren’t looking at the environment from space, people with a bias against human activity are free to fudge whatever data they need to to enhance their noble cause.

  25. Even the ICOADS archiving of raw shipping temperature data is being orphaned. See the notice posted at the top of all thier pages now:

    http://icoads.noaa.gov/products.html

    It seems climate monitoring was fine while it fitted the hype the governments wanted to push, now they need to make sure that monitoring falls apart before it provides any more, hard, long term data proving it’s mostly natural.

    Instead they’ll just add some “new” adjustments each year which will keep warming up the old climate record.

  26. Before new appropriations are given to NASA, it needs to account for the disposition and spending of appropriated funds over the years. I wonder how much has been directed to fund both domestic and foreign sourced research, computers and climate models that support the CAGW agenda rather than for satellites. I suspect that much of the wealth accumulated by favored persons, like Hansen, Schmidt, and Mann can be traced back to NASA funding.

    A better solution is to eliminate all climate related research and programs of NASA and its sub-agencies and purge all of the scientists and technicians involved in that work.

  27. Yes the boys have played with their toys. Now it’s back to the old ways of meteorological observation. The technology boom has peaked long ago.
    It doesn’t take long to travel by sailboat again. And by the time we have arrived at that point the world’s biodiversity has been almost completely destroyed.

  28. S Basinger says: May 3, 2012 at 8:40 am

    The less we can directly measure, the more baseless assertions about ‘Global Warming’ can be made. Land data has inherent inaccuracies that must be adjusted for and can be fiddled with. Aside from initial calibration, satellite records can’t be messed with.

    So would a thermometer (instrument for measuring temperature) be more reliable if it were actually immersed in the medium it was measuring, or viewing it from space?

    OK, so let’s think about this for a moment. Which gives us a more complete and detailed view of the world (1) a digital camera photo or (2) a semi-random, but limited collection of individual, single pixel color sensors embedded into the environment of the picture’s field of view?

    That is the difference between satellite temperature data and the ground based thermometer record.

    BTW, the satellite temperature sensors are in essence IR cameras much like those in use here on earth for measuring temperature where direct contact with an object is not practical or possible.

  29. Data is good. In general, more data is better. We should have good, working satellites that provided continued time series data on at least those topics presented on the Reference Pages.

  30. I’d look closely at how the James Webb Space Telescope and SLS are eating the entire NASA budget.

  31. How about taking some of that taxpayer eco-money that is being misdirected to social science propaganda in support of CO2 alarmism and putting it into data acquisition?

    Satellites ought to have a higher priority than all the alarmist scientific research too. Data comes first. That’s the definition of science. $100b for the academic propagandists while the thermometers, sea-level monitors, etc. fall out of orbit.

    These anti-scientific funding priorities fit Fits the Met Office’s John Mitchell’s statement from a year ago:

    People underestimate the power of models. Observational evidence is not very useful.

  32. The UN and current administration in the U.S. don’t want to have new data that might contradict their “CO2 is evil” narrative. Plus they have been quite effective in waging war on business and thus slashing incoming revenue.

  33. Robert of Ottawa says:
    May 3, 2012 at 9:24 am
    Something’s rotten in the state of America. WIth record deficits, one is obliged to ask where the money is going

    Wars, Police State, Green Energy, Corrupt politicians…………….

  34. “We are having to turn more and more to the Europeans and others for satellite data.”

    Well hopefully the “Europeans and others” with satellite data will not make the “climate scientists” sign legally binding agreements that they will “not pass the raw data onto third parties.”

  35. Maybe I’m wrong, wouldn’t be the first time, but wasn’t satelite temperature measurements one of the first hard data sources that conflicted with the whole global warming thing?

  36. This is blatant manipulation by an administration that does not want the citizen to know the truth. Those whom the alarmist gods wish to destroy they first make blind (of data).

  37. Steve R W. says:
    May 3, 2012 at 9:46 am

    GOES 11 satellite as of Feb 28, 2011 got knocked out due to budget constraints. It monitored the sun and solar wind activity.

    Would you like to ‘line up’ on the runway and try that (landing) again?

    GOES 11 made it into space (year 2000), checked out okay post launch, became operational (year 2006; GOES 10 was still working up to that point), served its purpose, experienced a few glitches (in 2008, which were worked around) and now shows decommissioned (year 2011).

    http://www.oso.noaa.gov/goesstatus/spacecraftStatusSummary.asp?spacecraft=11

    http://goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/text/goeslstatus.html

    And if one trusts wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GOES_11

    .

  38. I know where there’s a little over $2 billion that would be better spent on these measurement devices than on committees studying “global change”.

  39. If there’s a need, there’s a way. SpaceX is (see Iridium) already able to launch satellites, including geo-stationary ones, at about ¼ the ‘nominal’ costs of NASA launches, IIRC. Less even than subsidized Chinese launches. Fixed contracted prices, no overruns. And is going full-bore to knock that down by orders of magnitude by developing re-usable vehicles (all stages).

  40. Doug Proctor says:

    May 3, 2012 at 10:05 am

    The pattern of relying on models rather than data has two benefits for the warmists: skeptics can’t look inside the computers, and if reality becomes too much reality and not enough expectation, the problem lies with the computers, not with the people.

    You can drop a model and say the computer or variables were insufficient. If you have data, you have to say you fiddled with it or misinterpreted it.

    Having machines to blame is a get out of jail free card.

    At the defining sea battle between the Brits and France, with Napoleon, Admiral Nelson put his blind eye to the telescope and said he saw no signals telling him to withdraw from the battle. He persevered, and now we order a bottle of champagne in English, not French. If Jones and Hansen have to rely on models, not data, they will be like Nelson: they will be able to say they see nothing, so can continue the fight.

    Hate to nit pick, but Nelson did the blind eye thing at the battle of Copenhagen against the Danes, or so the story goes.

  41. A predictable impact of the AGW obsession is the deterioration of the tools we need.
    Has the AGW movement done any real good at all?

  42. From this I deduce that the amount allocated for evironmental satellites is directly proportion to the amount of warming. The null hypothesis would then be that that even more money is going to flow into climatology and evironmentists as the global temperatures sink.

  43. Wow.
    If only we had a space vehicle that could go up and service those satellites…..

  44. Too many supercomputers masquerading as crystal balls, too few satellites monitoring what is actually happening. Any connection?

  45. It’s pretty obvious. They’ve got billions going into the “climate research” yet don’t have the funding for satellites? Pull the other one! This is more of: “Let’s hide the data”, “We don’t like what they’re showing so we’ll get rid of them” and “Let’s not give those skeptics any more ammo against us.”

    You can bet if the data supported their claims, those satellites would be funded well enough.

    They want to remove all technology that gives the facts, like chaining the Internet and those who use it.

    Oh, I forgot. My mistake, they don’t need those satellites anymore, the science is settled… [/sarc]

  46. Those ignorant skeptics with their inconvenient data must be destroyed. Even if they’re orbital skeptics.

  47. Here is the facts behind the news. NOAA had billions of dollars to fund the new satellites, based on the Aqua/Aura systems.

    They failed. Instead of launching their first satellite under NPOESS in 2006 (NPP), the delays, overruns and screw ups resulted in NPOESS being cancelled in 2009/10 (it smacked into Nunn-McCurdy twice). NPP Suomi was launched 5 years late (Oct 2011). NPP was deemed a ‘risk mitigation’ effort to help NOAA take over the EOS class birds. It failed.

    Under the original schedule and plan, the first full up operational weather satellite was to be on-orbit by now. After NPOESS the new program was initiated called JPSS, now with NASA in the development lead role. JPSS will see the first operational satellite on orbit in 2016 (or later).

    NASA EOS was defunded in this area because these platforms were to be built by NPOESS (technically a tri-agency effort with DoD, NOAA and NASA).

    So don’t look at this as a problem with NASA. There is a reason Sen Mikulski proposed moving all satellite development efforts out of NOAA and sending them to NASA (GSFC). It was because NOAA’s execution was so bad and it resulted in this very problem.

  48. As many commenters above have noted this issue is a looming catastrophe for climate realists and the vast majority of the world’s population. Once the satellite measurements are no longer available, Post Normal Science (PNS) with its data creation, manipulation and outright falsifaction, already evident in the land-based temperature record will be left to operate completely unconstrained. We are all in big trouble if and when that day arrives!

    So, hjow can we ensure it doesn’t happen?

  49. It is noteworthy that both failed satellites and failed launches have been the norm lately. And the pressure is on to stop launching new satellites.

    Someone with a suspicious mind might conclude that NASA and the Administration do not want satellite data, which is by far the most reliable and accurate temperature and CO2 data. GISS would like nothing better than to have a monopoly on all “adjusted” temperature records. Without those pesky, accurate satellites, Hansen’s pseudo-scientists could then claim anything they wanted.

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