Climate change is well understood to be one of the major risks to modern society as well as one of the greatest science challenges of this century (IPCC, 2013, USGCRP, 2014). Yet we lack an observing system specifically designed to address this joint societal/scientific challenge of climate change (NRC, 2007; Trenberth et al., 2013; Dowell et al. 2013). While we have a wide range of Earth observations from surface to space, very few have been designed to climate change requirements. No international agreements or commitments exist for designing, building, and maintaining a climate observing system, although a number of discussions are ongoing that address pieces of a future observing system. A well designed suite of climate observations made over several decades have the potential, in conjunction with appropriate models, to characterize key processes, to resolve outstanding climate questions, and to quantify the uncertainty range on climate sensitivity. These observations will also be crucial in leading to the ability to do climate predictions that can better serve society.
This publication was presented at the following: