A new long-term global observing system is proposed that would provide routine, detailed vertical profiles of measurements in the atmosphere and oceans. The system, which would need to be designed, developed, and operated by a consortium of nations, would consist of 240 equally spaced, fixed locations over oceans and polar regions. It would use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the lower stratosphere to drop sondes every 72 h, and buoys in the ocean to report surface and subsurface data. In addition, the UAVs could descend routinely at a few locations to near the surface to measure detailed profiles of clouds, aerosols, and chemistry. The objective of the observing system would be to improve weather and climate prediction. It would address the important long-term climate issue by providing better monitoring of global and regional change, better measurement of climate feedbacks, and data that can be used to improve long-term climate models. It is argued that the combination of fixed and adaptive soundings over oceans and polar regions would significantly reduce initial analysis error, thus, leading to better weather prediction. The system, which should be designed to complement planned satellite and surface systems, could be operational by the middle of the next decade.
NOAA Forecast System Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado