To understand the global surface energy budget is to understand climate. Because it is impractical to cover the earth with monitoring stations, the answer to global coverage lies in reliable satellite-based estimates. Efforts are underway at NASA and universities to develop algorithms to do this, but such projects are in their infancy. In concert with these ambitious efforts, accurate and precise ground-based measurements in differing climatic regions are essential to refine and verify the satellite-based estimates, as well as to support specialized research.
To fill this niche, the Surface Radiation Budget Network (SURFRAD) was established in 1993 through the support of NOAA's Office of Global Programs.
The SURFRAD program has close ties with scientists at the University of Maryland, the Pennsylvania State University, NESDIS, UCAR's Office of Field Project Support, GCIP, DOE and Unidata. It is also part of the world-wide BSRN network. Operationally, SURFRAD has the cooperation of the USDA, the Fort Peck Tribes, the Pennsylvania State University, and the Illinois State Water Survey.