The primary goal of the EPA Group on Earth Observations, also known as EPA GEO, is to facilitate the Agency's response and contribution to the development of GEOSS. The EPA GEO Committee serves as a forum to broadly discuss and provide guidance on strategic themes and objectives to be achieved under the GEOSS/Advanced Monitoring Initiative (AMI) program.
With a great deal of experience in measuring, monitoring, and modeling the environment, the U.S. EPA is in a position to bring knowledge and leadership to the on-going Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) ten-year plan development process. As a major user or client of the Earth Observation data, the Agency's active involvement in the design of a GEOSS will ensure that products are useful to the environmental management programs in all of the participating countries.
EPA, working with other federal agencies, will provide leadership and contribute knowledge in support of GEOSS to ensure that it becomes a valuable collection of data, information and models that can be used to better understand environmental and related problems and to support environmental decision making. At the 2003 global Earth Observation Summit I, senior EPA officials chaired a panel on climate change and earth observations and gave the closing remarks to the ministerial gathering. Subsequently, EPA officials became the chair for the User Requirements sub-group of the U.S. multi-agency Interagency Working Group for Earth Observations (IWGEO) and one of the co-chairs of the international User Requirements and Outreach subgroup of the GEO.
Earth observation data are critical to all Countries' environmental programs in order to:
- assess the current condition of the environment,
- inform models,
- understand relationships among Earth processes, environmental health, and human health and well-being,
- support decision-making, and
- involve stakeholders more effectively in environmental decision-making.
EPA's data collection, modeling, and performance indicators
Since its inception, EPA has monitored air, water, land and human health. Currently, this work is divided into the five goals of the 2006-2011 EPA Strategic Plan. These measurements supply basic data and information, allow for the development of regulations based on science, and provide measurements of results or progress of environmental protection activities and decisions.
As part of EPA's mission, and as one of its contributions to GEOSS, the Agency continually collects and utilizes a wide variety of data from other agencies, tribes, states, non-government organizations, and other governments. EPA uses this data to help all of us better understand past and present environmental conditions, and to aid our efforts in predicting future scenarios in the form of sound forecasting for environmental conditions. These forecasts are used by individuals and organizations at every scale to create better awareness in the form of positive outcomes for themselves, their families and the environment.
EPA has also developed indicators that describe particular aspects of the natural, economic, and social environment. These indicators will be used to enhance the GEOSS project. The Agency's experience will help apply data and models to address current environmental issues and provide focus to a variety of earth observation system projects. For example, the Agency recognizes that strong relationships between architectures, data requirements, distribution networks, and outreach are critical to the success of the GEOSS project. Therefore, the Agency is working to ensure that systems and specifications are used to answer the proper environmental questions and strengthen these relationships.
Improvements to initial system requirements will help to optimize future work. In particular, an increase in the variety and quantity of data available for use in multimedia models would improve:
- air quality modeling and forecasting
- water quality monitoring
- development of Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) methods and results
- regional and national assessments of landscape indicators
- public information on environmental factors affecting health and well-being
- sustainability of ecosystems
Knowledge or data gaps in GEOSS sources can affect the strength of information and decision-making. Limitations in the set of scales and the frequency of coverage contained in current environmental data minimize the power of modeling and forecasting efforts. The GEOSS project is a valuable investment that helps overcome data and knowledge gaps. It provides an enhanced data stream, fills gaps and helps solve many of the pressing needs for environmental programs all around the Earth.