In the early 1980’s, I chaired a group of scientists exploring the idea of a comprehensive satellite mission to study all aspects of the global environment. The group was diverse with expertise covering the range of Earth science disciplines from geology, ecology, oceanography, limnology, glaciology, and atmospheric science and their various sub-disciplines. Their first recommendation was take today’s data today.
In all of Earth science there is the recognition that we have only one Earth to study. How Earth works is revealed by watching it change in a comprehensive manner and comparing observations over time and space. So, to unlock the secrets of the environment, one must take today’s data today because no one can come back and recover these data tomorrow. There is not an experiment one can rerun. As a wise American Indian saying goes, “You can never set foot in the same river twice.”
The ultimate result of my group’s recommendations was NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS). The instruments and satellites of this mission are still taking today’s data from orbit and have been joined by a growing set of satellites that extend these observations with additional measurements and additional samples of the same measurements. But the data they take is not the whole story; data taken from Earth’s surface looking up, looking around, probing below the surface, and taking samples for lab measurement are needed to complete the picture of the environment. GLOBE offers support to students and others to help take these data. So in GLOBE, let’s all make the effort to take today’s data today whenever we can.