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Report Explores Use of Earth Data to Support National Priorities
Date:9/8/2008

decision support tools that have the potential to address climate change impacts. The authors selected five for in-depth review. The tools are currently in use at the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Four of the tools examined -- in the areas of agricultural efficiency, air quality, water management, and energy management -- are well-established as a basis for public policy decision making, according to the report. However, the use of Earth information in public health decisions, such as the system developed to prevent the spread of Lyme disease in the United States, is a relatively new application area.

One of the major challenges facing increased use of Earth information for decision making is accounting for the degree of uncertainty in the results of these systems. Like all computer models and data, there are many sources of uncertainty, including the accuracy of the data as well as assumptions in the modeling that underlie the decision-support tools. The report found that with all the tools investigated, the agencies are using various methods to understand the effects of uncertainty and clearly communicate the confidence levels of the information they produce.

The availability of data is also a limitation. For example, a challenge for the Department of Energy's model -- used to decide where to build renewable energy technologies -- is the lack of direct measurements of wind and solar radiation in specific locations. Incorporation of more satellite-based Earth data in all of the decision-support systems is hampered by the fact much of the data is from short-term research missions that do not guarantee the type of long-term delivery of data to users as operational systems.

The report concludes the value of these tools for forecasting impacts of a changing climate is largely
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SOURCE NASA
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