Summary of FY2002 Budget Request to Congress - National Science Foundation

EARTH SCIENCES $116,790,000

The FY 2002 Budget Request for the Earth Sciences Subactivity is $116.79 million, an increase of $980,000, or 0.8 percent, over the FY 2001 Current Plan of $115.81 million.

(Millions of Dollars)

   FY 2000
FY 2001
Current Plan
FY 2002
Amount Percent
Earth Sciences Project Support
Instrumentation and Facilities
Continental Dynamics
Total, EAR

Totals may not add due to rounding.

The Earth Sciences Subactivity (EAR) supports research and educational activities to improve our understanding of the range of processes that govern the behavior and characteristics of the Earth's surface environment, which have resulted in the historical changes of the Earth and its environment, and determine its internal structure, composition and dynamics. Funding is provided for theoretical, computational, laboratory and field studies, and for state-of-the-art scientific infrastructure needs. The new understanding gained from such studies provides the fundamental scientific basis for the discovery and use of mineral, energy, and water resources; the prediction of natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and floods, and the mitigation of their impacts; and for environmentally sound decision-making. Supported projects often occur in partnership with and complement focused efforts by other federal and state agencies. Supporting over 45 percent of federally supported basic research in the earth sciences performed in colleges and universities, EAR plays a crucial role in advancing both research and education.

Research in the Earth Sciences is directly related to areas of increasing societal concern. Water, for example, is a vital national resource that is threatened by misuse and pollution engendered by growing populations and our industrial economy. Research in support of water resources management and water quality protection, therefore, is critical to all levels of our society. EAR fosters research that builds understanding of the processes by which water circulates and is stored in the global hydrologic system and of the associated cycling of chemical substances. EAR supported research studies the processes that reshape landforms and natural processes of self-cleansing, which are critical to preserving this resource. The immediate effect of this research is through the application of new tools to protect waters and the environment. NSF-supported efforts in the hydrologic sciences have led to better precipitation estimates that are contributing to more reliable flood forecasting. Hydrologic models have been refined for easier application and there has been solid advancement toward a more physical basis for the application of models in protecting sensitive environments. As a result of EAR support, more powerful computational tools are now available for quantifying the water cycle and understanding the transport of groundwater pollutants.

The FY 2002 Budget Request includes $79.19 million for Earth Sciences Project Support to provide funds for three main activities. The first is support for individuals and groups of scientists whose research lays the foundation of excellence and capability across all disciplines of the Earth Sciences. Supported programs include disciplinary studies in geology and paleontology, petrology and geochemistry, tectonics, geophysics, and the hydrologic sciences. The second is support for interdisciplinary research to help understand the parameters and processes that govern the behavior of complex planetary systems and gain insight into the character and behavior of the Earth's environment. The third is the integration of research, education and public awareness through the support of digital libraries and other human resources activities within the geosciences. Priorities for FY 2002 include support for:

  • multidisciplinary studies of the hydrological and biogeochemical cycles and processes that govern the character and dynamics of the Earth's surface and the intersection of the geosphere and biosphere;

  • improving understanding of natural hazards such as floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions;

  • expanding the geophysical observational capabilities of the Earth Sciences in order to better understand the structure, dynamics and evolution of the North American continent; and

  • enhancement of capabilities for computationally challenging planetary research such as dynamic modeling of earth system processes, managing very large data sets, and integrating and synthesizing data between disciplines.

Support for the Instrumentation and Facilities Program totals $28.52 million. This supports shared research facilities such as Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) for seismological research, the University Navstar Consortium (UNAVCO) for precision geodetic measurements using Global Positioning Systems (GPS), accelerator-based mass spectrometers, ion-beam microprobes, and synchrotron beam lines. The program also funds the research and educational needs for instrumentation at universities and colleges. Priorities for FY 2002 include support for:

  • enhancement of seismic, geodetic and other geophysical observational platforms on the North American continent to obtain higher resolution imaging of Earth structures underneath the continent and improved understanding of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and related active tectonic processes;

  • development of ultra-high pressure technology enabling laboratory investigations of Earth and other planetary bodies under extreme conditions existing in deep planetary interiors; and

  • the IRIS facility, to enhance operation and deployment of the Global Seismic Network, continue making available portable seismic arrays to facilitate focused geophysical research, and to sustain the Data Management System which makes available data on seismic events to researchers world-wide.

Support for the Continental Dynamics Program totals $9.08 million. This supports large coordinated multidisciplinary and multi-institutional field projects designed to understand the characteristics and processes that control the structure, behavior and evolution of the Earth's crust. This funding will enable continued support for U.S. scientists and engineers to participate in coordinated national and international continental scientific drilling activities as well as an increased emphasis on collaborative multidisciplinary studies to understand the Earth as a functioning dynamic system. Priorities for FY 2002 include:

  • national and international continental scientific drilling focusing on the mechanics of earthquake initiation, continental paleoclimatic history, and the detailed mechanisms that control eruptive volcanism;

  • science activities related to the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD), an interagency research effort designed to monitor a seismically active fault zone and expand our understanding of earthquake physics; and

  • support for field laboratories focusing on geological and geophysical processes that shape and alter the planet's continental crust.

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