Atmospheric science information is a component of numerous public policy decisions. Moreover, many resources for atmospheric science are allocated by governments, in other words, through public policy decisions. Thus, all atmospheric scientists—those interested in helping address societal problems, and those interested primarily in advancing science—have a stake in public policy decisions. Yet atmospheric science and public policy are sufficiently different that atmospheric scientists often find it challenging to contribute effectively to public policy. To help reduce this gap, this article examines the area where atmospheric science, public policy research, and public policy decisions intersect. Focusing on how atmospheric science and public policy inform each other, the article discusses and illustrates a key concept in public policy—the importance of problem definition—using an atmospheric science policy issue of current interest: observing-system design for weather prediction. To help the atmospheric science community participate more effectively in societal decision making (on observing-system design and other topics), the article closes with three suggestions for atmospheric scientists considering policy issues.

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Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division and Environmental and Societal Impacts Group, National Center for Atmospheric Research * Boulder, Colorado

*The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.