Aerosols exert myriad influences on the earth's environment and climate, and on human health. The complexity of aerosol-related processes requires that information gathered to improve our understanding of climate change must originate from multiple sources, and that effective strategies for data integration need to be established. While a vast array of observed and modeled data are becoming available, the aerosol research community currently lacks the necessary tools and infrastructure to reap maximum scientific benefit from these data. Spatial and temporal sampling differences among a diverse set of sensors, nonuniform data qualities, aerosol mesoscale variabilities, and difficulties in separating cloud effects are some of the challenges that need to be addressed. Maximizing the longterm benefit from these data also requires maintaining consistently well-understood accuracies as measurement approaches evolve and improve. Achieving a comprehensive understanding of how aerosol physical, chemical, and radiative processes impact the earth system can be achieved only through a multidisciplinary, interagency, and international initiative capable of dealing with these issues. A systematic approach, capitalizing on modern measurement and modeling techniques, geospatial statistics methodologies, and high-performance information technologies, can provide the necessary machinery to support this objective. We outline a framework for integrating and interpreting observations and models, and establishing an accurate, consistent, and cohesive long-term record, following a strategy whereby information and tools of progressively greater sophistication are incorporated as problems of increasing complexity are tackled. This concept is named the Progressive Aerosol Retrieval and Assimilation Global Observing Network (PARAGON). To encompass the breadth of the effort required, we present a set of recommendations dealing with data interoperability; measurement and model integration; multisensor synergy; data summarization and mining; model evaluation; calibration and validation; augmentation of surface and in situ measurements; advances in passive and active remote sensing; and design of satellite missions. Without an initiative of this nature, the scientific and policy communities will continue to struggle with understanding the quantitative impact of complex aerosol processes on regional and global climate change and air quality.

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Footnotes

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington

University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Max-Plank-Institut für Meteorologie, Hamburg, Germany

National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York

NOAA Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California

Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York

University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California