Ocean Data At Risk

Yesterday, a team of scientists that use NASA satellite data to study climate and pollution's effects on the oceans wrote to NASA and NOAA to voice their concern over the future data collection system designed by the two agencies. Here are a few interesting lines from the letter:

High quality ocean color observations have applications such as detecting and monitoring changes in water quality, tracking harmful algal blooms, assessing underwater visibility for divers, and a variety of other applications related to ocean ecosystems, carbon and elemental cycling, coastal habitats, and coastal hazards.

These NASA data sets have literally revolutionized our field and greatly enhanced our abilities to inform policymakers and the public of the changes to our oceans.

We have become increasingly concerned that [the new technology] will be incapable of providing imagery for climate science applications.

habsat.jpgAerial photographs and orbital data from outer space, particularly in time series, provides one of the best methods for examining changes in baselines. For instance, this satellite image reveals high concentrations of chlorophyll over a large area (in red), warning scientists of a potential harmful algal bloom off the Florida Gulf Coast. Scientists are worried about the continued availability of this type of data. For more about their concerns, read their letter to NASA and NOAA.

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I commented on this on Sept 14, when a NAS review of the president's climate change science program came out. I suppose that one way of silencing the scientists who say global climate change is occurring is to shut down the funding for their observational apparatuses. However, as you point out, a lack of satellites will also make forecasting environmental impacts (some with large economic and public health implications) will also be effectively curtailed.

Yay! Go non-funding! (F**k.)

Umlud: In this case, it wasn't about cutting funding as much as a bungled attempt (so far) to transfer responsibilities. The NPOESS program ballooned into a boondoggle, and they're still trying to fix it. When something exceeds its budget by (gulp) $3 billion or so, other programs suffer. This is an important program that's suffering and the suffering could probably be substantially mitigated for $100-150 million. The whole letter indicates how to do that.