The MAP program supports:
Earth system models translate our theoretical understanding of the Earth system into specific predictions of the past, present, and future states of the Earth system. These predictions can then be compared with observations in order to test our theoretical understanding. Earth system models therefore play an integral and critical role in: 1. Testing and improving our theoretical understanding of the Earth system, 2. Generating from observations our best estimate of the current complete state of the Earth system, consistent with both theory and observation, and 3. Generating projections and predictions of the future state of the Earth system, based on our best understanding of how the Earth system functions, and 4. Facilitating the development of the future observing system, for instance through Observing System Simulation Experiment (OSSE)-type studies.
Quantitative testing of our understanding of Earth system processes and behavior results from rigorous comparison of model predictions with observations. The MAP program is “observation-driven,” in the sense that its goal is to extract as much value from the available observations as possible, by focusing on those questions that can be effectively addressed with the current inventory of observations.
The MAP program is also focused on Earth system science, as is the entire Earth Science Division of NASA. That is, it is focused on understanding the Earth as a complete, dynamic system. This is driven by the agency’s unique space-based perspective, as well as the realization that Earth cannot be fully understood without a systemic perspective. The legacy of the MAP program is the study of the Earth’s climate and weather, but the focus has broadened over the years. The modeling integrates across all the research activities in NASA’s Earth science research program, and spans and connects the spatial and temporal scales that characterize satellite observations and observations from ground and air based campaigns. This broadening is in part due to the vastly more powerful computing resources that are now available compared to the past, but also to the growing understanding that climate and weather cannot be properly understood independently of other Earth system components (for example, atmospheric aerosols) and without accounting for the interactions between land, the oceans, the atmosphere, and the cryosphere.
MAP strives to generate models and model components that are well documented, thoroughly evaluated, interoperable, robust, and consistent with current coding standards and practice.