Weather, water, and climate (WWC) affect every community and every economic sector. Scientific observations and research in WWC help us meet basic human needs and create enormous opportunity for societal advancement. Near-term policy choices will help determine the nation’s WWC capabilities and vulnerabilities for decades to come.
To ensure economic and societal well-being over the next decade, AMS recommends that the nation:
• develop the next generation of WWC experts
• invest in research critical to innovation and advanced services
• invest in observations and computing infrastructure
• create services that harness scientific advances for societal benefit
• prepare informed WWC information users
• build strong partnerships throughout the WWC enterprise
• implement effective leadership and management
Develop the Next Generation of WWC Experts. It is essential to foster a diverse and inclusive workforce where representatives of all members of our society feel welcome. To ensure this workforce is equipped to enable scientific and technological advances, apply science for the benefit of all people, and inform WWC decisions, investments must continue to: (i) educate and train students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; and (ii) develop a new generation of WWC researchers. Environmental awareness and professional integrity are crucial values to instill in the next generation of WWC experts.
Invest in Research Critical to Innovation and Advanced Services. To ensure continued leadership in understanding our complex and changing planet and application of this understanding for the benefit of society, increased investments are needed to support new discoveries, innovation, applications, and model development in the geosciences, engineering, and relevant social sciences.
Invest in Observations and Computing Infrastructure. To ensure advances in scientific knowledge and more accurate and timely delivery of WWC products and support services at scales useful to decision-makers, and to preserve national security, targeted investments are required for:
Create Services that Harness Scientific Advances for Societal Benefit. To ensure society’s most pressing needs are met and its capabilities are optimally utilized, mechanisms for engaging a variety of users and moving research into practical applications in a timely and effective fashion must be encouraged, developed, and implemented. In particular, open access to data and publications is an increasingly powerful tool for distributing the fruits of scientific labor as widely as possible.
Prepare Informed WWC Information Users. To ensure we have informed users who can take full advantage of advanced WWC information and tools, education and communication programs must continue to focus on enhancing WWC skills and understanding by both decision-makers and society at large. These efforts should draw on insights from both physical and social science and should involve collaborations among scientists and decision-makers to maximize user feedback and the co-production of knowledge.
Build Strong Partnerships Throughout the WWC Enterprise. Private companies, government officials, academic researchers, and the NGO community have always worked together to meet America’s WWC challenges. As this task grows more consequential, urgent, and complex, a coordinated federal effort is needed to support, strengthen, and encourage strategic inter-sector partnerships, including efforts to increase the global suite of Earth observations, advance long-term stewardship of environmental data, and improve national and international community-level resilience to climate change and variability. Such partnerships must also be extended to related disciplines, including energy, transportation, health, and decision support.
Implement Effective Leadership and Management. To ensure that WWC investments are made in the best interests of the nation, effective leadership and management approaches will be needed, including: (i) appointing highly capable, well-qualified, and diverse leadership to top WWC policy positions in the White House and federal agencies, and (ii) implementing management approaches that support integrated WWC research and services planning across federal agencies and Congress. These structures should proactively engage the academic and private sectors.
In order to prosper, the United States—its government, businesses, institutions, and people—relies on a wealth of physical resources. Food, water, and energy are essential, as is a life-supporting environment. Our future also rests on a bedrock expectation: that we are resilient enough to survive whatever the environment throws at us. Resilience includes having advance warning of weather hazards and safe shelter when needed. It also includes knowing what to expect and how we might respond as the byproducts of our technological success—carbon emissions—act to warm and transform our atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere.
All of us are vulnerable to the impacts of weather extremes and climate change. Each person’s risk will be influenced by where they live, socioeconomic status, family and community ties, societal structures, the presence or absence of racial discrimination, and many other factors. No matter who we are, we rely on environmental knowledge. Those who generate and use that knowledge are accountable to the nation and its people.
The United States benefits greatly from the world’s largest assembly of specialists in weather, water, and climate (WWC), working in federal, state, and local government (the public sector), private firms, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and academia. Together, as a multifaceted enterprise, they supply Americans with crucial guidance on the behavior of the environment that shapes the lives of us all.
The decade of the 2020s will see new demands placed on the WWC enterprise—challenges that highlight the need to protect and enhance the nation’s capabilities, economic strengths, resilience, and equity. Ironically, some of these challenges arise from technological progress itself. Among these challenges:
These examples point to two pressing needs:
Policy makers at local, state, and federal levels will be hugely important in determining the extent to which these two needs are met.
WWC information must be as accurate, complete, accessible, and actionable as possible. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought home the enormous value of having timely, relevant information at hand when a crisis is looming. The nation must invest in the human and institutional foundation that undergirds WWC information so that the full spectrum of our people and communities have access to the best possible guidance on what to expect from our environment, when to expect it, and how they can respond to it. Increased diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are paramount to accelerating the advancement of science and bringing the WWC workforce into alignment with the nation’s population and its evolving needs. Economic and social prosperity belong to a society that understands and effectively responds to Earth’s changing WWC conditions.
Environmental forecasts provide a range of value at different time scales. At each of these time frames, experts and stakeholders from a diverse range of regional, social, institutional, and disciplinary backgrounds must join forces to better understand what people and communities need to know to make the best use of advances in weather and climate guidance. The results could yield benefits across the spectrum of user needs and time frames, from minutes to decades and beyond.
With this context in mind, the AMS prepared the seven recommendations above for policies resulting in a strong WWC enterprise equipped to support services and research critical to societal health and resilience. Challenges to the implementation of these policies remain, and their implications on forecasts and other services vary according to the lead time. These considerations are highlighted below.
Predictions across the traditional weather-forecast window of about one day to two weeks remain tremendously important to a variety of users. These forecasts can be improved and leveraged further in a variety of ways—for instance, incorporating multiday rainfall forecasts more completely into flood outlooks and water resource management.
Forecasts at other time scales offer their own benefits and challenges. Three illustrative examples are shown below. This is not a complete list; other examples could be created for each time scale, from minutes to decades and beyond.
[This statement is considered in force until September 2025 unless superseded by a new statement issued by the AMS Council before this date.]