This paper describes the principles adopted by the NASA Earth Science Enterprise in formulating a comprehensive 2002–2010 research strategy for earth system science, and outlines one component of this broad interdisciplinary program, focused on physical climate research. Before embarking upon topical discussions of each element of the program, the authors sketch NASA's overall strategy for climate research and organize the main research thrusts according to a logical progression from documenting climate variability and trends in relevant climate forcing factors, to the investigation of key climate responses and feedback mechanisms, consequences for weather and water resources, and climate prediction issues. The ultimate challenge for NASA's earth system science program, a major contribution to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, is to consolidate scientific findings in the different disciplines into an integrated representation of the coupled atmosphere, ocean, ice, land, and biosphere system. The hallmark of NASA programs is indeed the integration of observations, principally global observation from research and operational satellite and surface-based observation networks, into consistent global datasets to support its scientific research programs and the verification of earth system model predictions against observed phenomena.
*Office of Earth Science, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C.
+Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland.