UK Scientists Call for Satellite for Climate Model Calibration

by Matt Ball on September 19, 2011

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK’s National Measurement Institute, has just released a report that calls for a new earth observation satellite to better calibrate our climate models. The report draws attention to the estimated rise in temperature that span from a broad range of ~2-10?C.

Dr. Nigel Fox, head of Earth Observation and Climate at NPL, says: “Nowhere are we measuring with uncertainties anywhere close to what we need to understand climate change and allow us to constrain and test the models. Our current best measurement capabilities would require >30 yrs before we have any possibility of identifying which model matches observations and is most likely to be correct in its forecast of consequential potentially devastating impacts. The uncertainties needed to reduce this are more challenging than anything else we have to deal with in any other industrial application, by close to an order of magnitude. It is the duty of the science community to reduce this unacceptably large uncertainty by finding and delivering the necessary information, with the highest possible confidence, in the shortest possible time.”

The NPL solution is TRUTHS (Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial- and Helio- Studies) mission. This project includes a satellite capable of very high accuracy measurements, with the ability to calibrate other Earth Observation (EO) satellites in space. The TRUTHS satellite would spectrally resolve measurements of incoming solar radiation and that reflected from the ground. The accuracy would allow for benchmark measurements to be made of key climate indicators such as: the amount of cloud, or albedo (Earth’s reflectance) or solar radiation, at a level which will allow differences in climate models to be detected in a decade (1/3 that of existing instruments).

The instruments on the TRUTHS satellite would be calibrated onboard with an instrument called a CSAR (Cryogenic Solar Absolute Radiometer). This compares the heating effect of optical radiation with that of electrical power. This would make climate measurements ten times more accurate and give us much more accurate models.

The project is being considered by the European Space Agency as well as NASA.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

sansel September 22, 2011 at 6:50 am

Calibration of an analytical balance is a very important requirement to ensure that it consistently gives accurate readings.

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