Monitoring Climate Change: Operational Plan Needed Now

Opinion

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observations. It will also require sustained means for calibrating all observations despite the likelihood of significant changes in observed conditions and observational technologies over the decades. To be successful at this, GCM must now be addressed as an operational endeavor.

An operational GCM enterprise will require organization to enable integrated planning across all involved disciplines. It will demand uninterrupted measurement of many different classes of measurements made from all relevant operational environments (space, air, sea, and land). Also, just as importantly, it will require that climate researchers fully coordinate their individual efforts and share their resulting data.

Two necessary precursors to an operational GCM enterprise now exist. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration recently started a National Climate Service (NCS). A mission of the NCS, akin to the National Weather Service, is to process coordinated climate data to enable forecast of climate effects. Also, an inter-governmental forum called the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) was established to coordinate data formats and data exchange across international boundaries. However, these are only two small steps toward achieving operational GCM. A plan has yet to be put into place for coordinating planning, development, and implementation of operational GCM platforms. Means to collect and sustain ancillary measurements that enable operational GCM data calibration have not yet been addressed.

As the world ponders the scope and effects of climate change, there is much pressure to implement mitigation strategies, including restrictions on human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. An operational GCM system will be needed to both determine compliance with any implemented emission-restriction protocols and their effectiveness. The economic cost of climate-change-mitigation protocols may be much less than the effects of unchecked climate change. Yet that would only be true if the compliance with mitigation protocols can be assured, and the effectiveness of those protocols can be verified. An operational GCM system is a necessary means to obtain the data to address those issues. It will provide the insight needed to properly anticipate and adapt to irreversible climate change effects, as well as to adjust implemented mitigation strategies toward maximum beneficial effect.

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Dr. Philip D. Hattis holds the title of Laboratory Technical Staff of Draper Laboratory. Follow @

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