USGCRP-Affiliated US Agencies
Agency for International
of Commerce, Natl. Oceanic & Atmospheric Admin.
Health and Human Services
of the Interior
Dept. of Transportation
Aeronautics & Space Administration
National Science Foundation
Principal Areas of Focus
National Science Foundation (NSF) programs address global change issues through investments that advance frontiers of knowledge and provide state-of-the-art instrumentation and facilities while also cultivating a diverse highly trained workforce and developing resources for public education. In particular, NSF global change research programs support research and related activities to advance the fundamental understanding of physical, chemical, biological, and human systems and the interactions among them. The programs encourage interdisciplinary activities and focus particularly on Earth system processes and the consequences of change. NSF programs facilitate data acquisition and information management activities necessary for fundamental research on global change, and promote the enhancement of models designed to improve understanding of Earth system processes and interactions, and to develop advanced analytic methods to facilitate basic research. NSF also supports fundamental research on the processes used by organizations to identify and evaluate policies for mitigation, adaptation, and other responses to the challenge of varying environmental conditions. Through its investment, NSF contributes to the overall CCSP goals by providing a comprehensive scientific foundation for many of the synthesis and assessment products identified in the Strategic Plan for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.
Program Highlights for FY 2009
NSF programs in tropospheric and stratospheric chemistry will continue to address the composition of the atmosphere and its relation to climate variability and change. Studies of the transformation and transport of gaseous constituents and aerosols provide insights into the radiative and cloud nucleating properties of the atmosphere. Studies of the global distributions of greenhouse gases and aerosols will provide input for future scenarios of radiative forcing.
Climate Variability and Change
NSF programs maintain a strong emphasis on climate variability and change through a combination of observational campaigns and numerous analytical and modeling activities. Ocean science efforts will focus on changes in ocean structure, circulation, and interactions with the atmosphere to improve current understanding of the processes and models that address future changes, particularly those that may happen abruptly. Studies of decadal variability and changes in the statistics of extreme weather events will be an area of emphasis in climate change research. The Community Climate System Model (CCSM) continues to be enhanced with better model physics and parameterizations as well by incorporating interactive chemistry and biology. It also is being used in combination with an embedded, state-of-the-art, mesoscale model to explore high-resolution decadal climate prediction. Studies of paleoclimatology will continue to be supported as a means to provide baseline data on natural climate variability from the past and from key climatic regions and to enable reconstructions and evaluations of past environmental change as inputs for model validations.
Global Water Cycle
NSF supports a broad-based effort to understand all aspects of the global water cycle with continued emphasis on interdisciplinary research. Relevant programs will continue to explore ways to optimally and effectively utilize the wide range of hydrological data types—continuous and discrete time and space information from a variety of platforms for research purposes. Information from process studies will be used to refine models through scaling and parameterizations of sub-grid processes, particularly the fluxes of water through the Earth system. Planning for and the initiation of several prototype hydrological observatories, both physical and virtual, are being carried out. Science and Technology Centers will continue to work with stakeholders responsible for water management and with educators to translate research advances into useful products, particularly exploring issues related to decisionmaking in the face of uncertainty as applied to the urbanizing and drought-prone Southwest. NSF’s International Polar Year investments emphasize ice sheet change as a contribution to understanding the global water cycle.
Land-Use and Land-Cover Change
Several NSF programs continue to address key aspects of land-use and land-cover change through studies in ecological rates of change and related species diversity; Arctic systems; temporal variability; water and energy influences on vegetative systems; fire-land cover interactions; and diverse human influences on land utilization.
Global Carbon Cycle
NSF supports a wide variety of carbon cycle research activities. Investigations examine a range of topics in terrestrial and marine ecosystems and their relations to the carbon cycle. Research in terrestrial settings will explore, for example, carbon storage, controls on carbon exchange between ecosystems and the atmosphere, delivery of carbon by rivers, carbon fluxes from high-latitude soils, and carbon export from mountains and submarine groundwater discharge. In the oceans, air-sea gas exchange, remineralization of particles in the mesopelagic, and the upper ocean carbon budget will be addressed. Carbon cycle studies will integrate observational data into models to provide insights for understanding key aspects of the global carbon cycle.
Several NSF programs support investigations of the effects of climate change on terrestrial and marine ecosystems and the consequences of those changes on climate through observational, experimental, modeling, and laboratory studies. The collection of information and knowledge of climate-ecosystem interactions in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems through the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) projects derives from the rich array of observation, monitoring, experimentation, and modeling throughout this networked research program. The Hawaii Ocean Times-Series (HOT) and Bermuda Atlantic Time Series (BATS) sites augment the LTER network in the central ocean gyre ecosystems. The Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics program will continue to study the impact of global ocean changes on marine ecosystems through specific synthesis activities focused on the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Southern Ocean systems. NSF also supports studies of the production and consumption of greenhouse gases and aerosols by terrestrial and freshwater biota.
Human Contributions and Responses
NSF supports basic research on the processes through which people (individually, in groups, or through organizations) interact with natural environmental systems. Programs support projects that focus on decisionmaking under uncertainty associated with climate change. These projects are expected to produce new knowledge and tools that should facilitate improved decisionmaking by various stakeholder groups trying to deal with uncertainties associated with future climate variability and change.
International Research and Cooperation
The “International Polar Year 2007-2008” (IPY) extends from March 2007 through March 2009. The President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy designated NSF the lead Federal agency in organizing U.S. IPY activities. NSF IPY activities will focus on improving understanding of climate change in both polar regions and on linkages between polar and global systems. Observational foci include stratospheric and tropospheric chemistry over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean carbon cycle. In addition, NSF, in cooperation with NASA and international partners, will focus on longer term studies that will elucidate how sea level is changing in concert with changes in the stability of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
Related Research and Education Efforts
NSF will continue to support “contributing” research on broader topics that are closely related to global and climate change. These include, inter alia, studies of the atmosphere, ocean, land surface, ecosystems, paleoclimatology, and human dimensions—all of which add substantively to the specific programs supporting CCSP objectives. NSF has the computing infrastructure in place and under enhancement to enable more effective utilization of the research information. In addition, NSF supports projects that integrate research with education on global and climate change to demonstrate that scientific visualization—incorporated into inquiry-based learning—can enable students to develop an understanding of complex global change phenomena. Students address these issues by evaluating multimedia data at various spatial and temporal resolutions, reviewing scientific evidence, and considering social concerns that contribute to global and climate change debates. In collaboration with other agencies, NSF is working with the geosciences education community to develop a framework for Earth System Science Literacy.
Fiscal Years 2007-2009 budget table