Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program


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The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the top four in the past four years. The sun provides us with a valuable tool for climate change mitigation in the form of solar energy, which is becoming cheaper and more widely available and has the potential to replace fossil fuels like coal or oil as a major source of electricity. Energy can be harnessed directly from the sun, even in cloudy weather. Solar energy is increasingly popular for generating electricity and heating and desalinating water.

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Renewable energy, including solar energy, has become the technology of choice, making up almost two-thirds of global capacity additions to thanks to falling costs and supportive government policies. Photovoltaics PV , also called solar cells, are electronic devices that convert sunlight directly into electricity.

These solar cells can be seen everywhere — on roofs and windows of houses and office buildings, battery chargers and computers, new cars and airplanes, solar farms — the list is endless. Today, PV is one of the fastest-growing renewable energy technologies and is ready to play a major role in the future global electricity generation mix. Power generation from photovoltaics is strongly dependent on the weather. Therefore, reliable meteorological forecasts are indispensable for balancing the power grid and will gain even more importance as the renewable energy sector expands.

For this reason, weather forecasts optimized for energy applications are required. The requirements from the energy sector pose a new challenge and opportunities for national meteorological services. Action to protect the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects humans from dangerous ultraviolet and other forms of radiation from the Sun, shows the benefits of concerted international commitment. In the mids it was discovered that the ozone shield was being depleted well beyond natural processes as a result of chlorine and bromine atoms coming into contact with ozone and destroying ozone molecules.

The discovery of the ozone hole led to international action to phase out the most damaging chemicals such as chlorine-releasing chlorofluorocarbons CFCs , used in in refrigeration and air conditioning, and bromine-releasing halons, used as fire-extinguishing agents.


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Thanks to measures taken under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer has been halted. At projected rates, Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is scheduled to heal completely by the s, followed by the Southern Hemisphere in the s and polar regions by By the end of this century, an estimated million cases of skin cancer will have been avoided and many millions of extra cases of eye cataracts will have been prevented.

By limiting ozone depletion, the treaty also protects the human immune function and protects food security by reducing UV damage to crops and marine life-supporting ecosystems vital for fisheries. This report will provide a comprehensive overview of temperatures, high-impact events, and key indicators of long-term climate change such as increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, sea level rise and ocean acidification. The report will be launched to coincide with a high-level event hosted by the President of the General Assembly.

The State of the Climate report includes information submitted by a wide range of United Nations agencies on human, socio-economic and environmental impacts as part of an effort to provide a more comprehensive, UN-wide policy brief for decision makers on the interplay between weather, climate and water and global development goals. World Meteorological Day is celebrated in national ceremonies around the world. Details on World Meteorological Day are here. Skip to main content. Tags: Weather. Published 22 March Studying the climate also presents challenges to standard NSF funding mechanisms because of the long time scales of many of the phenomena.

Emerging research avenues linking economics and societal impacts are of great interest, but also represent the greatest challenge insofar as their maturity and readiness must be balanced with their potential. Aggressively pursuing cross-disciplinary research runs the risk of diverting funding from or diluting discipline-specific research. It is important to also recognize the inevitable tension between disciplinary and cross-disciplinary research. In the absence of increased funding, funding cross-disciplinary work will decrease the resources available for disciplinary research.

Yet, there remain disciplinary problems which, if advances are not made, will hinder interdisciplinary research. Effective identification of cross-disciplinary opportunities and related funding mechanisms are critical to the health of the atmospheric sciences. Yet, some research questions that fall at the interface between two or more disciplines can challenge NSF funding structures even when evaluations show these to be prime opportunities for scientific advancement.

These programmatic boundaries exist both within ATM e. The difficulties that exist are with finding the right program to support cross-disciplinary research projects and in harmonizing the reviews from experts in different fields. ATM leadership stressed that they collaborate with their colleagues in other divisions to support cross-disciplinary proposals and work with Principal Investigators PIs to identify funding opportunities.


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  • The committee believes, however, that more needs to be done to foster cross-disciplinary research. Indeed, a recent report by the National Academy of Public Administration recommended that NSF ensure that information about cross-disciplinary research opportunities and criteria for reviewing cross-disciplinary proposals are clearly communicated to investigators NAPA, First, many essential resources for atmospheric sciences research are created and supported by other agencies.

    These include space-based observational platforms, long-term monitoring efforts, and data archiving. Pooling resources supported by multiple agencies is an important component of many field programs. Thus, scientists supported by the other agencies turn to NSF for support when those agencies have downswings in funding, placing a larger demand on the NSF support for the atmospheric sciences.

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    In fact, Figures and suggest that such a phenomenon is happening now; support for atmospheric sciences at NASA and DoD has decreased in recent years while the number of proposals received by ATM has increased. Third, because ATM is the one source for federal funding that aspires to address research needs spanning all of atmospheric science, the division has additional responsibility to consider supporting critical areas of the science not addressed by other agencies for programmatic reasons.

    ATM participates in three major interagency programs that include atmospheric components see Box : the U. In addition, ATM supports the Center for Ocean, Land, and Atmosphere COLA , a not-for-profit research institution in Calverton, Maryland, with interagency support that has some of the characteristics of the small centers discussed earlier. The U. Climate Change Science Program CCSP is an interagency effort to better understand how climate, climate variability, and potential human-induced changes in climate affect the environment, natural resources, infrastructure, and the economy in our nation and the world.

    The current three priority thrust areas are quantitative precipitation forecasting and estimation, hurricane landfall, and the optimal mix of observing systems. The overarching goal of the National Space Weather Program NSWP is to achieve an active, synergistic, interagency system to provide timely, accurate, and reliable space environment observations, specifications, and forecasts. The program includes contributions from the user community, operational forecasters, researchers, modelers, and experts in instruments, communications, and data processing and analysis.

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    NSF provides support to advance state-of-the-art instruments and data gathering techniques, to understand the physical processes, to develop predictive models, and to perform detailed analysis of data associated with past events that have caused significant impacts to space systems. A possible concern has been that these targeted initiatives would constrain the community to follow certain lines of inquiry, possibly channeling emphasis away from other important research areas.

    However, this has not proved to be the case in the initiatives listed in Box In fact, these initiatives have all brought new funds into ATM, thus supporting more investigators and resulting in excellent science. Interagency coordination is a long-standing challenge for federally funded research in the atmospheric sciences, as recognized in many previous reports e.

    Yet it is essential to ensure that the critical science issues identified by the programs in Box , as well as other issues that require interagency coordination, are adequately addressed. Over the decades, interagency coordination within these programs and other interagency efforts, such as the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Air Quality Research, has exhibited mixed levels of success.

    The success depends in part on the leadership of each program, the willingness of the participating agencies to work toward mutual objectives, and the extent to which opportunities for coordination are clearly communicated to the research community. Typically, these interagency programs do not assert control over the budgets of individual agencies, but instead facilitate coordination by defining shared research agendas to which each agency contributes.

    Interagency activities in operational meteorology and supporting research have been coordinated by the federally mandated Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology OFCM since OFCM focuses on coordinating operational weather observing and forecasting requirements. In addition, it produces annual reports on federal investments in weather-related activities and research and, as needed, holds workshops and produces reports on specific issues.

    Like the other interagency coordination efforts, OFCM has had varied effectiveness over its tenure. ATM is to be commended for its participation in the large interagency efforts described in Box Furthermore, ATM program directors have. The committee is concerned, however, that ATM does not appear to have a strategic approach to its interagency activities. Thus, it is not clear to the research community exactly how ATM intends to contribute to large interagency programs, and interactions between program directors from NSF and other agencies appear to have an ad hoc nature.

    A more strategic approach is especially important for addressing large research problems that span the research investments of multiple agencies, such as climate or air quality, and for research avenues that have significant potential applications for operational capabilities, such as weather, for which coordination with mission-oriented agencies such as the National Weather Service is critical.

    It has long been realized that, because the atmosphere is global in extent, the meteorological discipline should span national boundaries. The WMO has fostered international cooperation on operational weather observations, for example, to ensure global coverage from satellite-based observations of the atmosphere, and has advocated free and open exchange of weather data. Many of the major field programs over the past 50 years have involved international coordination e.

    WMO coordinated international atmospheric research programs in the past, participating in the International.

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    The three direction finders were installed in New York in followed by two more in Pennsylvania the following year. NASA meanwhile installed a network of three direction finders in Virginia. We figured out how to connect all sensors to produce a network of eight direction finders covering the northeast in late The private-sector EPRI funding continued for the next six years until we completed the continental U.

    The network has today expanded to approximately sensors and covers North America. GATE provides a good illustration of the potential complexity of international atmospheric research: it involved 40 research ships, 12 research aircraft, many moorings, and 72 countries. A lightning sensor with the top removed showing the crossed loops that detect the azimuth to a distant lightning flash. Several activities act to coordinate modeling internationally. However, they also foster joint efforts to improve numerical models of the atmosphere and parameterizations of atmospheric processes in these models, under the aegis of international research programs such as GEWEX e.

    Models, satellite observations, and computing resources are shared across national boundaries. Atmospheric sciences has led the development of Earth system models which couple climate, oceans, land, and atmospheric chemistry, geology, and biogeochemistry. Earth system model development is now going on around the world with France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States playing important roles. Many model runs are now done using ensembles of models and initial conditions to characterize uncertainties in our understanding.

    Model and data comparisons rely on data collected around the globe and on observational programs that are coordinated and shared internationally. Groups organized under the WCRP and WMO focus on the development and evaluation of models; for example, numerical techniques and intercomparisons of models is the focus of the Working Group on Coupled Modeling. Expanding coordination of modeling activities, forecasting, archiving of model output, and exchange of data is crucial for atmospheric sciences.

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    The space environment affects the entire globe, so it is not surprising that ATM research initiatives in solar-terrestrial science have a significant international dimension. The NSWP, in addition to the interagency cooperation, maintains links and collaboration to similar programs in other countries. The SuperDARN network of incoherent scatter radars in both the northern and southern polar regions is another example of international collaboration on the part of ATM in the area of solar-terrestrial science.

    Large field programs are discussed, planned, and approved years in advance of their going into the field.

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    Data collected in these programs are coordinated and shared internationally. This advanced and increasing level of coordination across the nations has many benefits to all participants. However, it also creates the need for the U. This presents a challenge to ATM because they receive proposals from U. ATM has tried to cope with this situation by knowing when such large international field programs will occur and to anticipate that some of their overall budget will be used to support the participation of U.

    ATM has approached this situation in a largely ad hoc, but reasonably successful, manner so far. It is not clear that this ad hoc approach will be desired in the future when pressures on ATM funding will likely increase. A proactive and judicious mechanism, including the ability to commit with long lead time the participation of U.

    Such a mechanism would help U.

    Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program
    Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program
    Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program
    Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program
    Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program
    Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES): Highlights from a Priority Program

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