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.