NOAA 2004-020
Contact: Jordan St. Jordan

NOAA News Releases 2004
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The intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) will hold its working meeting this week in Cape Town, South Africa, to continue development of a ten-year plan for an Earth Observation System. Retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, will lead the U.S. delegation to South Africa.

The framework will provide the underpinnings for a 10-year plan that will guide the international effort to build an Earth observation system. That draft framework will be presented at the next ministerial meeting to take place in Tokyo in Spring 2004. The focus for the Cape Town meeting is to discuss input submitted from subgroups that will provide more details to the Draft Framework Document.

“The GEO working meeting is another step toward realization of an integrated, international Earth observation system,” Lautenbacher said. “The coordination, construction and operation of such a valuable scientific system is one of the most important legacies that we can leave the world community.”

The overarching plan for GEO is to implement a new global observing system of systems that links thousands of individual technological assets into a comprehensive Earth observation system or systems to provide critical scientific data needed to address important global economic, social and scientific challenges. With this improved knowledge, decision-makers around the world will be able to make more informed decisions regarding climate, the environment and a host of other economic and social issues that are affected by Earth and climate systems.

Around the globe, observing systems have already demonstrated their value in estimating crop yields, monitoring water and air quality, improving airline safety, and forecasting El Niño months in advance of its onset. However, gaps or “blind spots” in understanding Earth and its complex systems severely limit knowledge of how to address many concerns relating to drought, disease outbreaks, crop forecasts, energy and transportation. Relevant tools are required to address scientific uncertainties and improve management of natural resources that underpin our economies.

Lautenbacher serves as co-chair of GEO along with Achilleas Mitsos, European Commission director general for research; Akio Yuki, Japanese deputy minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology (MEXT) and Dr. Rob Adam, director general of South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology. Sub-groups were formed on international cooperation, architecture, capacity building, data utilization, user requirements uutreach.

With more than $3 trillion of U.S. GDP affected by climate and weather, including the agriculture, energy, construction, travel and transportation industry sectors, there are powerful economic as well as environmental incentives for gaining a greater understanding of these phenomena. The United States has already made significant investments in space and in situ or surface-based observing systems.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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