3.0 Key Areas for Development of Existing Facilities
Scientific advances in environmental and geosciences research
require significant investments in observational, computational, laboratory,
and sample and data access systems. Many field projects supported
by GEO require extensive facility support for the study of complex,
interdependent processes extending over large areas. Large data streams
and more comprehensive models of Earth systems require significant
investments in computational systems and coordination between modeling
and observational communities. Laboratory capabilities are essential.
Shared access to samples and data for analysis of environmental processes
requires the development of new technologies and new approaches to
distributed information management. GEO is committed to the support
of necessary laboratory instrumentation for use by individual investigators
via conventional research project grants. This plan is restricted
to consideration of those systems that serve the needs of extended
user communities. Here we describe existing GEO facilities and potential
plans for their maintenance and improvement over the next five years.
3.1 Environmental Observation Systems for Basic Research in the Geosciences
The geosciences have always employed a wide range of observational
and experimental tools, but recent technical progress has substantially
expanded the scope and accuracy of measurements that are possible today.
GEO facilities support for environmental observing systems focuses on
both maintaining and upgrading existing capabilities, while enabling
the innovative technologies that will provide the foundation for future
- The Global Positioning System (GPS)18,28
is currently capable of determining positions anywhere on Earth with
precision of better than a few millimeters. Predictably, such capabilities
have spawned an explosion of applications in the geosciences, including
the direct measurement of lithospheric plate motions, deformation
in plate boundary zones, seismic and volcanic deformation, motion
of glaciers and ice sheets, post-glacial rebound, and sea level changes.
The University NAVSTAR Consortium (UNAVCO) facility provides infrastructure
support for efficient, economical pooling of community resources.
Current UNAVCO activities include maintenance and repair of receivers
and associated equipment, assistance for GPS field projects, station
installations for permanent networks, antenna calibrations, and data
acquisition, archiving and distribution.
To keep pace with GPS applications in the geosciences during 1999-2003,
UNAVCO proposed plans include: (1) installation of permanent stations
for the International GPS Service Global Geodetic Reference Network,
as well as permanent stations for focused regional studies, and (2)
completion of the GPS Seamless Archive Center, with nodes at UNAVCO-Boulder,
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology,
the University of California at San Diego, and the University of Texas
at Austin, providing a unified system for data management for the
NSF is working with other federal agencies to ensure the GPS continues
as the international navigation, positioning, and timing standard
for peaceful civil, commercial, and scientific applications.
- Research Vessels8
A modern and efficiently operated fleet of research vessels is
essential to support field programs for a diverse set of research
projects from all fields of environmental and oceanographic sciences.
The 28-ship academic fleet can be broadly divided into three categories,
with operating modes and capabilities responsive to differing components
of research requirements:
- 6 ships with capabilities for extended global research cruises
to regions distant from home port;
- 12 intermediate and large coastal ships with capabilities for
multidisciplinary and single investigator studies throughout U.S.
waters and adjoining regions; and
- 10 regional and local research ships with capabilities for smaller
projects close to homeport and in near-shore waters.
Specialized capabilities for sea-going research include the deep submergence
facility, ALVIN, associated remotely operated vehicles (ROV's), and
new autonomous undersea vehicles (AUV's). Upgrading existing systems,
including possible major changes to ALVIN for increased depth capability,
and developing new unmanned systems is needed.
NSF works closely with other federal agencies and the academic community
through the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS)
to ensure an appropriate match of research and operating funds to
meet national requirements. A comprehensive evaluation is being conducted
of science support services and capabilities, ship operation, size
and composition of the academic fleet, and organizational structures.
The external review report, with recommendations for ensuring the
most cost-effective means of providing support for research requirements,
will be available in mid 1999. The need for changes in fleet capabilities
will then be determined.
- Scientific Drilling1,
both on the continents and in the oceans, is essential in studies
of the Earth. Drilling has the special characteristic of providing
direct observations of active geological processes, such as the mechanics
of faulting, fluid circulation in hydrothermal systems, thermal and
eruptive regimes of volcanic systems, models of geologic structure
and stratigraphy, and the origin of mineral and hydrocarbon deposits.
The success of the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) and the widespread
use of drilling in mineral and hydrocarbon exploration demonstrate
the value as a geologic tool in testing exploration models.
The ODP uses the drillship JOIDES Resolution as the primary
facility for studies of the ocean basins and continental margins.
The continuation of scientific ocean drilling (currently scheduled
to end in 2003) would require a replacement of this capability.
Continued drilling should support acquisition of a global array
of high deposition rate cores for climate studies, development and
emplacement of borehole observatories, and time series studies of
seismicity, fluid flow, and crustal deformation.
The U.S. Continental Scientific Drilling Program is coordinated by
the NSF, the USGS, and the Department of Energy (DOE). As part of
the Program, a consortium of universities provides a mobile facility
for wireline coring, wireline geophysical logging equipment, on-site
core processing, large lake and continental margin sediment drilling
and coring equipment, and associated drilling database and archive
support. The facility adapts to the wide range of scientific and environmental
constraints required by different drilling projects. In addition,
the facility provides technical, engineering, and contracting infrastructure
to help Earth scientists access drilling and coring support. Future
targeted research includes global studies of the continental impacts
of climate change, the origin of explosive volcanism, the mechanics
of faulting leading to earthquakes, the evolution of hydrothermal
systems and associated mineral deposits, the geological history of
sea level change, and studies of major extinctions. Long term objectives
include increased integration of the ODP and the International Continental
Drilling Program to meet drilling needs of studies of the continental
and ocean margins.
ODP Cores. Sediment and rock cores recovered
by drilling the seafloor provide access to a vast repository of
geological and environmental information on Earth's history. The
core shown above, collected 300 miles off the northeast Florida
coast, reveals an amazingly detailed record of a meteorite impact
event in the Caribbean 65 million years ago. This event is believed
to have caused mass extinction, perhaps as much as 70 percent
of all species, including the dinosaurs. The dark layer contains
the debris from the impact. The rust colored layer represents
the debris from the vaporized meteorite. The graded gray core
material overlying the rust layer shows the gradual repopulating
of the ocean with microorganisms. The approximately 40 cm of core
material was collected at a water depth of about 2600 meters,
110 meters below the seafloor.
Other cores contain detailed records of past
environmental changes, helping to better understand the critical
processes and mechanisms controlling the climate system, and correlating
land and marine climate records.
Results from coring the ocean crust have also
been striking. For example, in the early days of scientific drilling,
beginning in 1968, cores proved the hypotheses of seafloor spreading
through the relationship of crustal age and magnetic reversals.
This led to our present concept of plate tectonics.
The ODP provides the only capability for scientific
sampling of anything but the shallowest layers of ocean sediments
- The Global Seismographic Network (GSN)20
is a network of over 108 broadband, digital seismic stations distributed
globally to monitor earthquakes, underground nuclear explosions, volcanic
activity, and to research deep Earth structure. GSN station operation
and maintenance is managed by IRIS, collaborating with the USGS, the
University of California at San Diego, other U.S. university groups,
and cooperating international seismic networks partners, including
GEOSCOPE (France), MEDNET (Italy), POSEIDON (Japan), and GEOFON (Germany).
Seismic data acquired through the GSN is an indispensable resource
for many seismological research areas: tomographic imaging of core,
mantle, and lithosphere structure, rapid and accurate location of
earthquakes and other seismic sources, and better understanding of
the driving forces moving lithospheric plates and crustal deformation
patterns leading to earthquakes.
Anticipated improvements of the GSN to ensure continuing exciting scientific
discoveries during 1999-2003 and beyond include: (1) up to 35 new station
installations to complete the global (land-based) coverage, (2) operating
a key Pacific Ocean GSN seafloor station, Hawaii-2 Observatory (H2O),
with an ocean bottom broadband seismometer midway between Hawaii and
California on a donated AT&T wire cable, (3) conversion of selected
stations to `geophysical observatories,' with addition of GPS receivers,
magnetometers, gravimeters, and microbarographs to form the nucleus
of a multi-purpose geophysical network, and (4) continued improvements
of telecommunication capabilities for rapid data acquisition and distribution.
31 A large pool of
portable seismometers, available worldwide for field deployment, is
provided by the IRIS-PASSCAL Program (Program of Array Seismic Studies
of the Continental Lithosphere). The PASSCAL pool consists of over
400 seismic recording systems, with a total capacity of more than
1500 channels, and includes 200 broadband sensors, as well as intermediate
period instruments. The PASSCAL instruments are serviced and supported
by an instrument center located at the New Mexico Institute of Mining
and Technology. Since its inception, the PASSCAL Facility has supported
over 180 field experiments. The capabilities of the PASSCAL pool are
complementary to the GSN, allowing for higher-resolution imaging with
closer spacing of stations and special array geometries. Possible
improvements and activities anticipated during 1999-2003 include:
(1) significantly increasing the existing instrument pool capacity
in order to reduce the current wait of 18-30 months to instrument
field projects, (2) expanding the use of telemetry and extending the
capabilities of broadband arrays, and (3) acquiring small, lightweight,
inexpensive instruments, activated to record by radio command and
intended for use in active source experiments for high-resolution
crustal imaging experiments needing many instruments at close spacing.
Shear wave velocity variation beneath the Pacific plate at
150 km depth. (Reproduced from Ekstrom, G. and A.M. Dziewonski,
The Unique Anisotropy of the Pacific Upper Mantle. Nature,
Whole Earth Dynamics. Data from the IRIS GSN can map the
variation of the velocity of seismic waves in the Earth (tomography).
These variations depend on both temperature and the crystallographic
orientation of the material the seismic wave is passing through
(anisotropy). Until recently, the effect of temperature, which
produces isotropic variations in seismic velocity, was believed
to be much greater than the effect of anisotropy. For example,
velocity variations in the upper mantle beneath the Pacific Ocean
were thought to result from the cooling of oceanic lithosphere
as it moves away from the East Pacific Rise spreading center.
A new global three-dimensional tomographic model of seismic velocity
shows that the uppermost mantle beneath the Pacific Ocean is considerably
more complicated than this simple thermal model. The figure shows
that the anisotropic variations in velocity (top panel) are at
least as large as the isotropic variations (bottom panel) due
to temperature. The bottom panel also correlates the isotropic
variations with the age of the seafloor, as expected from a simple
thermal cooling model. The anisotropic variations, however, do
not appear to be correlated with the age of the seafloor. Because
seismic anisotropy is an indicator of strain in Earth materials,
these results can be used to put constraints on both buoyancy
forces (thermal effects) and flow patterns in the upper mantle
- Ocean-Bottom Seismic (OBS) Instrumentation Pools are being
established to meet academic community needs for short- and long-term
deployments of large numbers (more than 50) of ocean-bottom seismometers
and/or ocean-bottom hydrophones. The OBS instrument pools serve the
broad community by providing engineering, technical, and management
staff. This staff supports maintenance and technical capabilities
for the instrument pools, provides necessary interface between users
unfamiliar with instrument details and operational limits, and provides
assistance with experimental design, deployment and retrieval issues,
and data reduction processes.
- Research Aircraft and Airborne Instruments9
Advancements in geosciences are inextricably linked to detailed observations
of the Earth system only accomplished with specialized instrumentation
flown on capable aircraft. NCAR operates and maintains a Lockheed
C-130 aircraft (planned to support community research for another
15-20 years) and an Electra aircraft (to be phased out around 2004).
Additionally, NSF provides grantees access to a Beechcraft King Air
and North American T-28, managed by cooperative agreements with the
University of Wyoming and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology,
respectively. The King Air should provide service many years into
the future, and the T-28 will undergo review in 2000 for its continued
maintenance and operation needs. The WB-57F NSF aircraft was transferred
to NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas in 1998. NASA presently
makes the aircraft available to NSF-supported and other researchers
on a cost reimbursement basis. Both the Electra and the C-130 have
capabilities of carrying large, airborne research instruments, which
include a multi-channel cloud radiometer and a scanning aerosol backscatter
lidar. In addition, the Electra carries the Electra Doppler Radar
(ELDORA). A GPS Dropsonde system provides atmospheric measurements
on both the C-130 and the Electra. Both aircraft can also support
specialized instrumentation provided by individual investigators for
Because operating and maintaining airborne capabilities are costly,
GEO must continue to build alliances in coordination and cooperation
with other federal and foreign organizations so that diverse airborne
resources can be made available to the NSF-sponsored research community.
Base support will continue to provide reliable and affordable combinations
of payload, range, and capability to achieve the most important science
goals. Airborne platforms that can accommodate multiple instruments
(as well as multiple investigators) will be emphasized. Capabilities
to support research over the troposphere and into the lower stratosphere
should be maintained, as well as aircraft providing extensive global
operations over the oceans and polar regions.
- Surface and Sounding Systems10
Two transportable, multi-parameter, dual-polarization Doppler radars,
the S-POL and CHILL, are operated by NCAR and Colorado State University
(CSU), respectively. NCAR also operates several transportable and
mobile surface measurement and upper air sounding systems, providing
the community with accurate measurement capabilities for many atmospheric
parameters. These include the Integrated Sounding System (ISS), the
Integrated Surface Flux Facility (ISFF), the GPS Rawinsonde systems,
and the GPS Dropsonde systems for aircraft.
Anticipated improvements in the capabilities and communications of the
S-Pol system include the application of real-time precipitation particle
identification algorithms, use of bistatic receivers to produce real-time
multiple-Doppler wind fields and incorporation of horizontal refractive
index/humidity measurements from phase delays. Operation of the CSU
Pawnee radar (formally called the HOT radar) in conjunction with CHILL,
should provide a dual-Doppler radar capability, with remote, real-time
access via the Internet. Upgrades in the digital signal processor, polarization
bases, and product generation capabilities are also projected. In addition,
improvements in the measurement, data processing, and remote operation
capabilities of the ISS and ISFF should be undertaken. A GPS version
of the Rawinsonde will allow worldwide operation of these instruments.
- Incoherent Scatter Radar Chain11
The global chain of incoherent scatter radars, with facilities in
Peru, Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, and Greenland, provides remote measurements
of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. By measuring densities, temperatures,
velocities, and other derived properties of atmospheric constituents,
these upper atmospheric facilities provide an enduring contribution
to many strategic areas of research, including the Global Change and
Space Weather Programs. A variety of smaller optical and radiowave
devices extend observations to other altitudes and different ionospheric
and atmospheric species.
As radar technology improves, better altitude coverage and higher
time resolution will be attained. Atmospheric scientists, combining
data from collocated instruments and those at other chain locations,
will address an ever-growing number of important research topics.
The facilities will use emerging collaborative tools and networking
technology to provide easier access to data and greater participation
in experimental campaigns by atmospheric scientists and students.
In addition to continuing support of scientific research during
the next five years, radar operators should exploit new technology
in a carefully coordinated strategy to gradually replace aging equipment
with more robust and reliable components.
3.2 Computational Systems for Analysis and Modeling in the Geosciences
Large observational data sets produced by modern geoscience instrumentation
require modern computing equipment for acquisition, archiving, distribution,
and analysis. The need for long-term stewardship of large data sets
is especially strong in the geosciences, where decades of observations
are often the key to understanding fundamental processes occurring at
decadal rates. Complementary to observational and experimental methods
in the geosciences, researchers are also taking advantage of rapid advances
in computing to create reliable and sophisticated models of natural
systems. In the geosciences, there is a strong need for a new generation
of powerful computational machines, capable of handling complex models
of physical, chemical, and biological processes, at resolutions that
are impossible to attain with present technology. GEO is actively investigating
options whereby the community can be provided with a profound increase
in computing power.
- Computational Infrastructure26
Significant advances in Earth system science have been made over
the last decade, driven in part by access to high performance computational
capabilities, terabyte size data systems, high bandwidth networks,
and four dimensional visualization. These capabilities are referred
to as `computational infrastructure.' Many aspects of Earth system
research, particularly those that are computationally intensive, are
poised to achieve substantial progress, but researchers must have
available to them a state-of-the-art computational infrastructure
if these advances are to be realized.
One strategy to accelerate the development
of computational resources available to the NSF-supported community
includes coordination of efforts with other agencies to create new paradigms
in the use of high performance computational environments, linked closely
to a national effort in the development of information technologies.
The implementation of this strategy recognizes the need to provide for
all levels of computational resources to sustain progress in geosciences.
The pyramid of computational resources described by Branscomb26
remains a valid strategy for geosciences to adopt over the next decade.
GEO recognizes the need for an effective balance among high performance
desktop workstations versus mid-range or mini-supercomputer versus networks
of workstations versus remote, shared supercomputers of high performance.
At the apex of the pyramid is a collaboratory concept, that would
involve both centralized and distributed resources interconnected
by extremely high bandwidth networks. The centralized node would execute
complex predictive and simulation models and house data archives to
provide rapid access to petabyte-sized data sets. Connected to this
centralized facility would be powerful nodes that would have significant
computational, data storage, and visualization capabilities.
To realize this ambitious vision, four elements of the GEO community's
computational infrastructure environment would require enhancement—software;
scaleable information infrastructure; high-end computing; and the
information technology workforce. These long-term efforts are explicitly
described in the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee
(PITAC) Interim Report to the President, August 1998. The research
agenda articulated in the PITAC report, though beyond the scope of
geosciences, is consistent with GEO's long-term goals.
- Climate Simulation Laboratory (CSL)12
A high-priority computing system is the CSL, a multi-agency
facility located at NCAR that supports research related to the U.S.
Global Change Research Program (US/GCRP). The CSL provides high performance
computing, data storage, and data analysis systems to support large,
long-running simulations of Earth's climate system.
Possible future plans include a joint NSF-DOE initiative for substantial
increases in computational resources for scientific simulation in
several areas of computational research, including climate modeling.
These additional resources would enable climate model simulations
with improved physical and biogeochemical representations of important
climate system processes at much finer spatial resolution.
3.3 Laboratory Systems for Measurements and Experiments in the Geosciences
The need for modern laboratory instrumentation and the infrastructure
necessary to make it accessible to geoscientists engaged in basic research
is clear. In many areas of the geosciences, it is technological advances
that have actually determined the research agenda. GEO is committed
to the support of necessary laboratory instrumentation for use by individual
investigators via conventional research project grants. However, this
plan is restricted to consideration of those systems that serve the
needs of extended user communities, important examples of which are
- Accelerator Mass Spectrometers (AMS)21,
GEO supports AMS facilities located at the University of Arizona,
Purdue University, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The
AMS technique is unique in its ability to measure isotope species
with sensitivities of one part in 1014 or better, making
it the only analytical tool available for radiocarbon dating of old
(relative to the 14C decay period) or very small samples.
Recent advances in AMS techniques have also resulted in the development
of additional tracer and age-dating applications in the geosciences
for other cosmogenic nuclides such as 10Be, 26Al,
36Cl, 41Ca, and 129I. The three AMS
facilities provide the geosciences community with a balanced menu
of analytical capabilities covering the entire range of research applications,
including climate change and environmental studies, radiocarbon dating,
exposure age dating, and radioactive tracing and dating of groundwater.
Potential plans for 1999-2003 include acquisition of a new accelerator
for the University of Arizona and development of new isotope analysis
capabilities at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Purdue University.
- Ion Microprobes22,
The ion microprobe is the instrument of choice for precise isotopic
and trace element analysis combined with excellent spatial resolution.
In order to provide access to this instrumentation (a two to three
million dollar investment per machine) for the geosciences community,
GEO supports large radius ion microprobe facilities at University
of California, Los Angeles and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
During 1999-2003, GEO expects to add one additional multi-user ion
microprobe facility to accommodate increased demand by the academic
research community; for example, scientists supported by NSF's Life
in Extreme Environments (LExEn) Initiative, and NASA's Astrobiology
Program. High precision isotopic analyses at micro-scale to nano-scale
resolution are critical for `chemical fingerprinting' of ancient and/or
recent biological activity.
- Synchrotron Radiation Facilities23,
32 Synchrotron storage
rings use magnets to bend, wiggle or undulate relativistic electrons
or positrons to produce photon beams of unprecedented brilliance and
energy range. When combined with modern diffraction and other spectroscopic
techniques, the result is an explosion of new tools for the science
of materials. Geoscientists who study Earth and planetary materials
under extreme pressures and temperatures reproducing in situ
planetary interiors, or environmental geochemists studying surface
reactions between soil particles and pollutants, have access to these
tools through GEO's support of synchrotron beamline facilities at
the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory, Chicago,
Illinois and the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at Brookhaven
National Laboratory, Upton, New York. These beamline facilities provide
excellent examples of NSF-DOE partnerships. In each case, DOE operates
the overall storage ring facility, while GEO supports the construction,
instrumentation and operation of the user-access beamlines. Geoscience
applications of synchrotron radiation have already produced important
advances in our knowledge of the properties of the mantle and core
(seismic velocity, seismic anisotropy, density, rheology, and melting
relations). Possible future plans for 1999-2003 include advanced instrumentation
for x-ray microdiffractometry of samples held at simultaneously high
temperatures and pressures in diamond anvil cells and multi-anvil
presses. A blossoming interest in beamtime is expected in environmental
geochemistry research. For instance, atomic-scale probing of mineral
surfaces and biology tissues with high-brilliance x-rays can provide
site-specific data on the speciation of toxic metals and radionuclides
in contaminated sediments and organics, and the oxidation state of
- Institute for Rock Magnetism (IRM)24
The study of magnetism in rocks contributes significantly to geoscience
research on plate tectonics, mantle dynamics, origin and evolution
of the Earth's magnetic field, and, more recently, environmental geology,
where variations in rock magnetism are providing a useful proxy for
environmental changes. Expensive, state-of-the-art instruments for
special studies are available to the geosciences research community
at the IRM, located at the University of Minnesota. The IRM provides
free and guided access to instruments, such as susceptibility anisotropy
bridges, low- and high-temperature AC susceptometers, alternating
gradient force magnetometers, magneto-optic Kerr effect microscope
system, magnetic force microscopes, and Mossbauer spectroscopy systems.
The IRM is recognized internationally as the leading resource
for instrumental, technical, and educational support in rock magnetism.
Continued support of the IRM facility in 1999-2003, is anticipated,
including investment in IRM's equipment pool and staff consistent
with the research community needs.
3.4 Sample and Data Access Systems
Open and easy access to sample collections and large digital data
sets is essential to almost all research programs in the geosciences.
GEO aims to support the creation and maintenance of data management
systems and sample archive facilities to insure valuable data needed
by high-priority research projects are readily and widely available
to the academic community. Innovations in the use of the Internet for
interactive search and display of very large data sets is revolutionizing
these capabilities and promises to provide investigators with unprecedented
access to environmental observations.
- The IRIS Data Management System (DMS)20,
has become the resource of choice for seismologists collecting seismic
data for studies of the Earth's interior and earthquake sources. The
IRIS Data Management Center (DMC) acts as the central archive and
distribution point for all GSN and portable instrument pool (PASSCAL)
data for the seismological community. The DMC is also the official
data center for selected seismic data collected by the Federation
of Digital Seismic Networks. In addition to its data collection and
archival functions, the center also develops software tools for the
research community, including the promotion of new `object-oriented'
software development techniques.GEO plans to continue to support the
DMS facility to meet the demand for its products. DMS efforts during
the past five years have concentrated on data gathered through the
GSN. New activities during the period 1999-2003 are expected in the
development of enhanced DMS services for seismic data retrieval and
analysis. In addition, data from magnetotelluric investigations of
the electrical conductivity structure of the Earth's interior would
be archived within the IRIS DMS, and therefore easily accessed via
- Upper Atmosphere Research Collabor-atory (UARC)13
Over the past six years, UARC has built the capability to design,
deploy, and evaluate internet-based collaborative technology to facilitate
collaborative space/upper atmosphere science. Within the UARC project,
the team has supported an international community of space scientists
by combining the concepts and methods from both computer science and
behavioral science with the deep involvement of `domain' experts in
space sciences. UARC initially focused on collaborative interactions
surrounding real-time data acquisition from the incoherent scatter
radar facility in Greenland, but later expanded to include a suite
of ground-based and satellite data feeds spanning the globe and the
output of large-scale computational models of the upper atmosphere
system.With sponsorship from the NSF's Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence
(KDI) Program, UARC will be continued with a broadened approach, reflected
in its new name: Space Physics and Aeronomy Research Collaboratory
(SPARC). SPARC will combine experimental data streams and their interpretation,
theoretical models, real-time campaign support, capture and replay
of collaborative sessions, post-hoc analysis workshops, access to
archival data and digital libraries, and extensive educational/outreach
modules. These activities will significantly extend the power of technology-mediated
distributed knowledge networking systems. SPARC aims to produce a
next-generation collaboratory that would support a full range of scientific
activities worthy of being called a knowledge network.
Upper Atmosphere Research. Research efforts in atmospheric
sciences increasingly depend on the clustering of instrumentation
to provide improved spatial coverage, better temporal and spatial
resolution, and expanded measurement capabilities. An illustration
of this trend is the combined lidar and incoherent scatter radar
experiments being conducted at the Sondrestrom Facility in Greenland.
The radar measurements of electron densities associated with thin
ion layers along with simultaneous and coincident lidar measurements
of the neutral sodium layer, offer new insights into the physical
processes responsible for ion and neutral layering at high latitudes.
The upper panel shows the sequence of incoherent scatter radar
measurements in the altitude range from 80 to 110 km, with an
altitude resolution of 600 meters. Thin ion layers appear to form
at altitudes around 105 km and slowly descend to form a thicker
aggregate layer around 93 km. The darker vertical streaks are
electron density enhancements produced by aurora. The lower panel
shows the presence of a thin sporadic sodium layer coincident
with the ion layer and persisting for at least four hours.
Clustering instrumentation at facilities, establishing strategically
located chains of stations, and improving instrument capabilities
all support studies of long-term environmental changes associated
with global change and the prediction of atmospheric effects from
weather and space weather. The data from these instruments provide
information essential for the validation of models that simulate
interaction between the various components of the Earth system.
- Sample Collections4
Chemical, biological, and geological samples from specific research
studies often retain value following the initial study. The insight
from the initial study coupled with sample characterization, in fact,
often enhances the value. Organized sample collections, or archives,
with documented records accessible to additional investigators, are
required to enable second-generation studies, including evaluation
of long-term environmental changes. Geoscience collections include
geological samples from the ODP, other field studies, and photographic
archives from deep submersible science studies. Support for existing
and possible new collections (e.g., lake drilling cores, continental
drilling cores) is required with a focus on preserving collection
integrity while expanding opportunities for additional research. This
includes more extensive promotion and dissemination of information
about the collections through internet and web-based communications.
Unidata offers software and services that enable atmospheric scientists
to acquire and use an extensive array of data products, often in real
time. Unidata members constitute a nationwide collection of electronically-linked
researchers having common academic interests in atmospheric and related
sciences and sharing similar needs for data and software. Unidata
permits users to benefit not only from the best contemporary software
methods for accessing and displaying environmental data, but also
from increased platform independence and greater use of distributed
Future efforts should provide improved ease-of-use and greater compatibility
with more data types and higher data volumes. In addition to adapting
decoders and applications to analyze and display data, Unidata plans
to expand the Internet Data Distribution system to incorporate new
sources, handle higher data rates, adjust automatically to variations
in user demands, adapt dynamically to Internet performance variations,
and exploit networking advances such as multicast protocols. New capabilities
would include animated, three-dimensional visualization tools and
a Java-based information framework, setting the stage for eventually
utilizing aggregate data holdings of all Unidata sites as a common
The mission of the Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) of the National
Science Foundation (NSF) is to advance scientific knowledge about
the solid Earth, freshwater, ocean, atmosphere, and geospace components
of the integrated Earth system through support of high-quality research;
through sustenance and enhancement of scientific capabilities; and
through improved geoscience education (GEO Science Plan, 1998).
To fulfill its mission, GEO strives to attain three goals:
- advance fundamental knowledge about the Earth system;
- enhance the infrastructure used to conduct geoscience research;
- improve the quality of geoscience education and training.
This document describes GEO's plan to achieve the second of these
three goals over the next five years, and complements the GEO Science
Plan, FY 1998-2002 (NSF 97-118).