Measuring the small changes associated with long-term global climate change from space is a daunting task. The satellite instruments must be capable of observing atmospheric and surface temperature trends as small as 0.1°C decade−1, ozone changes as little as 1% decade−1, and variations in the sun's output as tiny as 0.1% decade−1. To address these problems and recommend directions for improvements in satellite instrument calibration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System–Integrated Program Office (NPOESS-IPO), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) organized a workshop at the University of Maryland Inn and Conference Center, College Park, Maryland, 12–14 November 2002. Some 75 scientists participated including researchers who develop and analyze long-term datasets from satellites, experts in the field of satellite instrument calibration, and physicists working on state-of-the-art calibration sources and standards.

The workshop defined the absolute accuracies and long-term stabilities of global climate datasets that are needed to detect expected trends, translated these dataset accuracies and stabilities to required satellite instrument accuracies and stabilities, and evaluated the ability of current observing systems to meet these requirements. The workshop's recommendations include a set of basic axioms or overarching principles that must guide high quality climate observations in general, and a road map for improving satellite instrument characterization, calibration, intercalibration, and associated activities to meet the challenge of measuring global climate change. The workshop also recommended that a follow-up workshop be conducted to discuss implementation of the road map developed at this workshop.

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Consultant to NOAA and NIST, College Park, Maryland

NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama

University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

NIST, Gaithersburg, Maryland