White House 2014 National Plan for Civil Earth Observations and 2012 Earth Observations Assessment (EOA)

July 18, 2014
Washington, D.C.


The White House has released the National Plan for Civil Earth Observations along with a Fact Sheet and blog post from Friday July 18, 2014. The 2012 Earth Observations Assessment (EOA) Results are included in Annex I of this Plan. The 2012 EOA focused on the processes and methodologies for conducting a robust earth observations assessment, which will be applied to the the second Earth Observations Assessment (EOA2) that is in the initial phase of development now. The full National Plan for Civil Earth Observations, including "Annex I: 2012 EOA Results" can be found here.

Among the highlighted categories, examples of high-impact airborne, terrestrial, and marine platforms and programs are identified in the EOA. These systems provide sustained observations for public services, research, and experimental observations. While many Federal agencies rely on the data generated by these systems for their operations, many of the systems are also operated as partnerships between Federal and non-Federal entities. Among several measurement categories identified for sustained research observations, the following major carbon related ones are listed in the Plan: 

  • Integrated geophysical and biosphere characterization (terrestrial, freshwater, and marine), including long-term dynamics to understand ecosystem change and biogeochemical processes,particularly the carbon cycle and
  • Greenhouse gas emissions and concentrations, including understanding sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, as well as changes in long-lived greenhouse gas and short-lived climate pollutant concentrations over time.

The Plan stresses that, 'Continuous high-quality observations are critical for defining the current state of the Earth system; in particular, the constantly changing conditions of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Observations from airborne, terrestrial, and marine platforms are required to accurately measure a number of Earth-system processes, including those related to biodiversity, groundwater, carbon sequestration, and the subsurface ocean. Long-time-series data derived from these observations contribute to more effective detection and diagnosis of climate change. Agencies should sustain the operations of established airborne, terrestrial, and marine observation platforms with ongoing attention to sufficient coverage and data quality.'

According to the Plan, Federal agencies will conduct sustained satellite civil Earth observations as described in it, with all launch dates  contingent on congressional funding of the President’s annual budget requests. Some carbon related ones are listed below.

6.1. Sustained Satellite Observations for Public Services

'These observations from space-based systems are important to the provision of public services. While some agencies conduct these observations to support public-service products, other agencies may also conduct research efforts in these same areas.' One of them is below.

6.1.2. Land-Imaging

'The NASA Administrator, together with the Secretary of the Interior through the Director of USGS, will implement a 25-year program of sustained land-imaging for routine monitoring of land-cover characteristics, naturally occurring and human-induced land-cover change, and water resources, among other uses. They will also ensure that future land-imaging data will be fully compatible with the 42-year record of Landsat observations. The NASA Administrator will be responsible for satellite development, launch, and commissioning, and the Secretary of the Interior, through the USGS Director, will be responsible for representing users’ requirements; development and operation of the ground system; operational control of satellites once on orbit; and processing, archiving, and distributing land-imaging data and routine information products. The NASA Administrator and the Secretary of the Interior, through the USGS Director, will continue to collaborate to address common needs for data continuity and new technology deployment.'

6.2. Sustained Satellite Observations for Earth System Research

'The NASA Administrator will conduct sustained satellite observations for research to advance the understanding of changes to the Earth system and related climate change. The Secretary of Commerce, through the NOAA Administrator and in collaboration with the NASA Administrator and other agencies, will also provide sustained observations for research on seasonal and inter-annual climate trends. Specific satellites will provide observations of the environmental phenomena described.' One of them is below.

6.2.2. Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

The Plan states that Federal agencies will conduct sustained satellite civil Earth observations as described in it, with all launch dates contingent on congressional funding of the President’s annual budget requests. One of these is for Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. 'The NASA Administrator will provide global measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) through the Orbital Carbon Observatory (OCO), launched in July 2014. OCO measurements will be combined with data from a ground-based network to provide information needed to better understand the processes that regulate atmospheric CO2 and its role in the Earth’s carbon cycle. Additionally, the NASA Administrator will explore using data from carbon dioxide monitoring missions planned by international partners.'


The White House press release is below.



Office of Science & Technology Policy


July 18, 2014

White Fact Sheet & Blog Post: Harnessing Observations and Data about the Earth to Stimulate Scientific Discovery, Economic Growth, and Public Services

You can view the Fact Sheet HERE.

You can view the blog post by Timothy Stryker HERE.

FACT SHEET: Harnessing Observations and Data about the Earth to Stimulate Scientific Discovery, Economic Growth, and Public Services

The Federal Government invests roughly $3.5 billion in civil Earth observations and data every year across multiple agencies, and also leverages investments made by State, local and tribal governments, academia and industry in order to make the most of data about our planet. By conservative estimates, these investments add $30 billion to the U.S. economy each year by providing Americans with critical data and information about natural resources, climate and weather, disaster events, land-use change, ecosystem health, ocean trends, and many other phenomena. Because these investments generate a wide range of observations that support key public services, long-term research, scientific discovery, and technology innovation, it is critical that they are deployed in ways that are efficient, effective, and immediately useful.

That’s why today, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) released a National Plan for Civil Earth Observations, a blueprint for maximizing the value of observations collected by Federal agencies of the Earth’s land surfaces, oceans, and atmosphere. The Plan will help the U.S. Government maintain and advance its Earth observing systems in ways that help protect life and property, stimulate economic growth, maintain homeland security, and advance scientific research and public understanding.

National Plan for Civil Earth Observations. Last year, OSTP released a National Strategy for Civil Earth Observations, providing a framework for routinely assessing and planning for the Nation’s Earth observation infrastructure, and outlining an approach for lifecycle data management across the Earth-science agencies. Building on this strategy, as well as the first-ever internal assessment of the Federal Earth observation enterprise, conducted in 2012, the National Plan released today establishes priorities and supporting actions for advancing our civil Earth observations capabilities. Priorities established by the Plan include:

·         Continuity of sustained observations for public services;

·         Continuity of sustained observations for Earth system research;

·         Continued investment in experimental observations;

·         Planned improvements to sustained observation networks and surveys for all observation categories; and

·         Continuity of, and improvements to, a rigorous assessment and prioritization process.

Big Earth Data Initiative. Publicly funded Earth observations that are open and freely available help increase understanding of complex issues such as energy security, climate change, human influence on food and water resources, and resulting impacts on societal health and well-being. Earth observations also support private-sector products and services, enhancing productivity, employment, and economic development. Through the Big Earth Data Initiative (BEDI), which is supported in the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 and 2015 budget requests, the Administration seeks to improve the discoverability, accessibility, and usability of data and information derived from Federal civil Earth observations, making these information products easier for everyone to find and use. By supporting data discovery, BEDI responds to the President’s 2013 Executive Order on making open and machine-readable the default for government data, and also supports the President’s Climate Data Initiative. 

The U.S. Group on Earth Observations (USGEO). USGEO, which is chaired by OSTP and includes representatives from a number of Federal agencies, provides the coordination mechanism for agencies’ civil Earth observations activities.  In 2013, USGEO was re-chartered in under the OSTP-led National Science and technology Council with a threefold purpose: (1) to coordinate, plan, and assess Federal Earth observation activities; (2) to foster improved Earth system data management and interoperability throughout the Federal Government; and (3) to engage international partners through the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO). Learn more.

The Intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO). In January 2014, the United States joined 90 governments and more than 65 international organizations to renew their commitment to the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO), founded in 2005 as a global voluntary partnership to leverage Earth observations in support of decision making in an increasingly complex and environmentally stressed world. GEO is an intergovernmental organization in which the United States is a member and leader. USGEO, described above, is responsible for formulating the U.S. positions for, and coordinating U.S. participation in, the intergovernmental GEO. Learn more.

·         Read the full the National Plan for Civil Earth observations HERE.

·         Read a blog post about the Plan HERE.