You are on page 1of 2
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON Department of Atmospheric Sciences : 28 Jamuary 2004 Mr. Stan O'Keefe, Administratcr : | NASA Headquarters, Code A 300“B” Street, S.W., Suite 9F44 ‘Washingion DC 20546-0001 Dear Mr. OKcefs, I aim. writing'to you: as an individual scientist to bring t6 your attention a serious gap in’ thie development of an observational basis for quantifying the natural and forced changes in the Earth's climate.. Specifically, 1 want to-urge NASA to move ahead with the deployment of the Deep Space Climate Observatory, DSCOVR, as a means to significantly refine the understanding and quantification of the Earth's reflectance or albedo. ‘My own research for the past 14 years has focused on quantification of ‘the offects' of anthropogenic aerosols on the Earth's reflection and absorption of solar radiation; indeed, my Colleagues and I published the first paperson the complex topic of climate forcing by nthropogenic aerosols. As a member of the Science Team for the NASA satellite CALIPSO, I am fully aware of the fine opportunities for measurement that its Taser radar will provide along - With the rich data set expected from the AquaTrain. We are confident that these mew data ‘sources. will significantly ‘improve our ability to calculate the climate forcing by aerosols; and it will provide important reductions in the depenidence upont assumptions regarding aerosol effects in climate models. aa But, the larger context of these aerosol fests is the alhedo of the plinet, which is one of the least well-quantified factors influencing the Earth's. cniergy balance. The global albedo is largely determined by: the properties and areal extent of clouds. It is very difficult to niodel and is smeasured only with large uncertainties, even by the best radiometers aboard NASA satellites, . such as CERES. “Among the difficulties with information gained-from inistruments in low Eaith orbit is the fact that the satellite "sees" only a small portion of the planet at any instant, and polar’ orbiting platforms are usually sun-syncronous such that they make observations at only one time . Sf day and at one or a few angles. ‘The classical technique for detenmining the Earth's albedo is based on observations. of the portion of-the moon illuininated by. "Earthlight”, This method complemsnts existing satellite observations; and at timés can “sec” nearly the whole sunlit hemisphere, but still has an ‘accuracy of only about 0.006 {in albedo waits), which in turn results in an uncertainty in energy balance around 2 Watts per square meter. For reference, the total forcitig by greenhouse gases is 2.4 Watts per square meter, which has an uncertainty of only about 10%. Thus, the uncertainty in the measurement of albedo and its variations is as Jarge or larger than the whole man-maile. greenhouse effect. Importantly, much-work has been done.over the last century on the greenhouse effect but very little has been: done about global albedo, lIamgely.becansc clouds are so difficult to model aid to measure globally. ‘In Grder to obviate this serious problem, Zadiometers carried aboard DSCOVR could be used to provide much refined data. oi albedo and its geographical and teniporal variability. ‘Its accuracy should be comparable to that of the Iunar method. Its high time resolution will undoubtedly 7 406 Atmospheric Sciences Geophysics Box 351640 Seatle, Washington 95195-1640 206-519-1250 FAX: 206543. 0808 wwyatmoe.washington.ede | : i | | | | i } | | | | reveal new aspects of the factors ‘vansing albedo fluctuitions. “It would observe continuously nearly the entire sunlit side of the Barth from a uaique vantage in the vicinity of the Li point etween Barth and the sun. ‘These instruments and the satellite platform for them have been built ‘and aré now in storage for want of a launch opportunity. When launched, DSCOVR will céritinuously observe the same exact scenes as will be observed ‘by the satellites of the A-Train, providing coincident, mniltivariate data sets for detailed analysis. Great synergistic value will be added to the A-Train data sets via comparisons and contrasts to the. more global ‘data of DSCOVR. ‘Just-as albedo isthe’ global ‘context for studying and ‘understanding aerosol effects, the neat-hemiispheric data of DSCOVR will provide a contimious ‘context for the more detailed measurements made- from those platforms .in low “Bart orbit. Considerable additional value will accrue, far beyond the’actnal cost of launching and operating DSCOYR. ¥ Recent papers (c.g. J. Goopy’s. Res. 108(D22) 4709d0c:10.1029/20083D003610,2003; Ibid, 4710doi:10.1029/20033D003611,2003)- including both satellite- and Imar-based observational ‘ectiniates show that the global albedo is & dynamic quantity with large (many percent) variations ‘that are not captured well in global climate models. However, tests of the internal consistency of these ‘estimates’ show ‘significant. disagreements, even in the nature of the’ annual variations. DSCOVR will provide an objective means for testing the internal consistency of all of the above as well as the data from the A-Train. ‘Again; Y urge you to press the case’for launching aid operating DSCOVR ‘50 that we in'the. scientific commmnity can make real progress toward understanding climate and the impacts of human activity upon it: Without it, we will continue to be stck with excessive tmcertainties and - dependence upon assumptions instead of data. bert J. Charlson Professor Department of Atmospheric Sciences TEL: (206) 543-2537 Sincerely,. cc. Dr. Ghassem Asrar ‘Prof. Daniel Jacob Dr. Jeffrey Kichl * Prof. John Seinfeld Prof. Richard C.J. Somerville Prof. Francisco PJ.Valero Dr. David Winker