Wednesday, March 12, 2008

AMS Science Policy Priorities

The AMS (American Meteorological Society) has recently posted a draft policy statement regarding weather and climate priorities. Over the previous months there have been discussions on numerous blogs, in Congress, and within Universities regarding what needs to be prioritized due to our increasing susceptibility to extreme weather events as well as impending climate shifts.

These discussions have taken place regarding historic storms, like Hurricanes (Should New Orleans rebuild?), flooding (Should people still live along flood prone rivers?), and tornadoes (Should people in severe weather prone regions not have adequate shelter or warning systems?, for example.

These debates, while important, seem to be draining societies abilities to plan and adapt to possible impending disasters. Therefore, it is applaudable for the AMS to set out a "first-stage" list of priorities. I have my own set of opinions, but because this is a draft and open to public criticism, all of our comments could be forwarded to the AMS, which will be discussed by their board and possibly made into changes for their final-permanent statement. The following are the listed priorities from the linked draft and my comments:

1. Ensure That New Knowledge Will Be There When Needed.

a. Goal: Ensure that the scientific understanding needed for tomorrow's decisions
is indeed available.
b. Action: Congress should meaningfully augment the funding for weather and climate basic research over each of the next five years. The incoming Administration should mount an immediate, high level review of current agency work in this area to prioritize the allocation of these new resources. Members of the AMS community will be largely responsible for implementing the new research and should identify and take concrete steps to accelerate, and report on, progress.

2. Improve Infrastructure and the Utility of Forecasts.
a. Goal: Advance the quality, timeliness, geographical specificity, and socio economic impact content of products and services.
b. Action: Congress must continue support for ocean–atmospheric–terrestrial measurements and modeling of the Earth system, associated computing infrastructure, building the weather and climate workforce, and educating the public. Some very specific actions include federal investments and addressing the recommendations made in the recent National Research Council Earth Observation Decadal Survey. The incoming Administration must tighten interagency accountability and coordination with respect to development and use of the new capabilities. Congress and the incoming Administration should also work together to identify and develop the funding needed to support the coming new generation of operational polar orbiting and geostationary satellites, surface radar networks, etc.

3. Develop Leadership and Coordination.
a. Goal: Appoint key leaders and improve federal coordination.
b. Action: To ensure investments in infrastructure and forecast utility achieve the greatest benefit, the federal agencies including NOAA, USDA, DoE, DoI, EPA, NASA, NSF, and the White House itself (OMB and OSTP) must take more leadership in coordinating these efforts. The incoming Administration must appoint strong, qualified leaders, especially to top policy positions. NOAA will play a key role in this effort and top NOAA and Commerce officials should be selected who can make strategic decisions relative to weather and climate issues. An experienced and knowledgeable leader coordinating overall federal efforts should report directly to the President. The President's Science Advisor would be an appropriate position for such a leader; the position would require an individual with a broad weather and climate background. Congress must call for such appointments, and exercise its powerful advise and consent and oversight role. For its part, the AMS community will recommend slates of qualified candidates for these positions and provide such lists to the new Administration.

4. Build Partnerships for Action.
a. Goal: Create public, private, and academic partnerships that can develop better approaches and tools to plan, prepare for, and cope with local and regional weather and climate impacts.
b. Action: A decade ago, the United States undertook a national climate assessment, to better understand the needs of local and regional decision makers facing climate change impacts. Congress should mandate a new national assessment. The incoming Administration should make this assessment a priority, and focus on developing the tools and resources needed to deal effectively with local and regional weather and climate impacts. This assessment should begin with a national summit of key stakeholders (i.e., governors, emergency managers, and information users and providers from the public, private, and academic sectors) to define goals. The AMS community can help facilitate this assessment with its current network of companies and universities throughout the country — many of which already have relationships and projects with local and regional decision makers. The assessment would build a national network of partners skilled in dealing with weather and climate impact decision making.

5. Evaluate Progress and Make Needed Mid-Course Changes.
a. Goal. Create a mechanism to monitor progress on goals.
b. Action: Congress should request that the incoming Administration establish a Commission that reports to the President and the Congress on the progress in addressing these priorities, and on their impacts with respect to national policy. The Commission membership should draw members from public, private, and academic sectors and include information end users as well as providers. The AMS community should also help, initially by making recommendations with respect to the composition of such a Commission, and subsequently, by developing and providing information for use by the Commission throughout its deliberations


Pat Jenkins said...

well thought out supports prog. but with all one can attempt to do we are limited because of the inability to fully predict how mother nature reacts. that doesn't me we neglect learning but we will never completely grasp the magnitude of weather patterns. and there is some beauty in that!!!

E. R. Dunhill said...

You've outlined some interesting ideas. I'm curious about what kinds of numbers you'd attach to 1b and 2b.
Also, with respect to #4, you've made reference to the local and regional scales. Is there a particular reason that Congress has to make this happen? Might state and local governments, regional NGOs, universities, and coalitions thereof be better attuned to local/regional needs and challenges? Would these smaller organizations perhaps be faster in responding than the federal government?