More…on Earth observations, science, and services for the 21st century

A preamble…

At the end of the October 31 post, I said we’d focus on unleashing private-sector productivity.

But in the interim, I’ve done some rethinking, along several lines. First, the thought struck me as unbalanced. Often what people mean by this phrase is a kind of code. The code is that the public sector, by contrast, is incapable of productivity.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If 32 years in government and my experience since has taught me anything, it is that productivity, creativity, energy, high sense of purpose, innovation, accomplishment are to be found everywhere. In the private sector? You bet.! But also in the public sector. In academia. In volunteer work. And not in the U.S. alone, but internationally. [We can also find the opposite of these desirable attributes in all the same places. We call that the human condition.]

Second, my thinking has since been informed by yesterday’s discussions at the AMS workshop on Earth Observations, Science, and Services for the 21st Century. What was striking, without going into the details, was the contrast between work underway to (1) augment networks of surface meteorological sensors and (2) to deploy sensors in space. Both have had their recent successes. Shortly we’ll enjoy a substantial augmentation of surface carbon dioxide measurements – far sooner than most people had thought possible. And the successful NPP launch clears a huge hurdle for the world of aerospace and remote sensing of the Earth from space.

The distinction lies in what happens next. Those working on the surface networks see each sensor as seeding further sensors. They make comments like “…put this out in one state, and pretty soon other communities in that state will want their own sensor, and over time the network will build…” They’re looking to probing above the surface, characterizing not just conditions adjacent to the ground, but throughout the depth of the boundary layer (think the inversion layer that traps pollutants, or the layer just beneath cloud formation).

The folks at the satellite end find themselves by contrast on autopilot settings that don’t look as if they’ll change significantly until around 2025. The JPSS missions that will succeed NPP are scheduled to follow a script that’s relatively cut-and-dried. In the meantime, everything else in the host society that wants these space-based Earth observations will be morphing constantly, rapidly – if anything, at an accelerating rate. And this rigidity brings costs.

A big key? Being able to change direction…to recognize, acknowledge, and correct mistakes. How to accomplish this? Still up in the air.

Such as making slight adjustments in the direction of topic of this post.

More soon. Gotta get back to the workshop.

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One Response to More…on Earth observations, science, and services for the 21st century

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