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GCOS Programme Review

20 years of GCOS

After 20 years of operation, a review of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) programme was long overdue. The GCOS programme sponsors accepted the proposal for review, and in December 2012 the WMO Secretary General Michel Jarraud appointed a Chair and invited the sponsors to nominate a Review Board.

The Review Board gathered evidence in four ways: 1) a self-assessment by current and former GCOS Steering Committee Chairs and former GCOS Secretariat Directors, 2) a survey questionnaire distributed to the broader GCOS community, 3) a number of targeted personal interviews with senior representatives of the GCOS programme sponsors, and 4) active and considered appraisal and interpretation of results by the Review Board members. The findings were summarized thus:

"There is no doubt that the GCOS programme should be continued. It is indispensable. If it ceased to exist it would need to be re-created. To make GCOS fit for the future, the GCOS Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) should be redrafted on the basis of careful consideration of all its chapters and annexes. A revised MoU should reflect all items that were previously included, along with new understandings and commitments by sponsors, such as a better cooperation mechanism and an optimized structure for the Secretariat, Steering Committee and its Panels. This should be supported by a more stable financial foundation as a prerequisite for everything else."

The main outcomes of this review are summarized in a synthesis report:

pdf GCOS Review synthesis report - english                 pdfGCOS Review synthesis report - spanish

pdfGCOS Review synthesis report - french                   pdfGCOS Review synthesis report - russian

pdfGCOS Review synthesis report - chinese


New GCOS panel brochures

GCOS has published new information brochures for both the GCOS/GTOS/WCRP Terrestrial Observation Panel for Climate (TOPC), as well as the GCOS/WCRP Atmospheric Observation Panel for Climate (AOPC). The science panels have been established to define the observations needed in the domains of atmosphere and land, to prepare scientific programme elements and to make recommendations for implementation.

Please find the new brochures here:

Brochure for the GCOS/WCRP Atmospheric Observation Panel for Climate (AOPC)

Brochure for the GCOS/GTOS/WCRP Terrestrial Observation Panel for Climate (TOPC)


The concept of ECVs in support of climate research, applications, and policy

In September 2014, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society has published a paper written by the GCOS community that describes the concept of Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) developed under the Global Climate Observing System for a range of applications, as well as to provide an empirical basis for understanding past, current, and possible future climate variability and change.

The paper can be found here.


Adrian Simmons handing over GCOS Steering Comittee Chair to Stephen Briggs

GCOS Chairman hand-over 2014


Adrian Simmons, who recently retired from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), has completed his four-year term as Chairman of the GCOS Steering Committee. Stephen Briggs (ESA) has accepted to chair the GCOS Steering Committee with effect from 1 March 2014. Carolin Richter (centre), Director of the GCOS Secretariat, met Adrian (left) and Stephen (right) for a brief hand-over ceremony at the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT), based at the Harwell Science, Innovation and Business Campus in Oxfordshire, UK, on 3 April 2014. 


Joint GCOS/GOFC-GOLD Workshop on Observations for Climate Change Mitigation

The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), in collaboration with the Land Cover Project Office from the Global Observation for Forest Cover and Land Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD), is organizing an international workshop from 5-7 May 2014 at WMO Headquarters in Geneva to consider the climate observation requirements to support mitigation to climate change. The workshop will bring together approximately 25 representatives of sectors in which mitigation to climate variability and climate change is, or is likely to become, an important concern. These also include the communities of agriculture, forestry, and land use.

The goals of the workshop are to identify observational requirements for mitigation, to review the Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) and associated guidelines to determine their adequacy for mitigation, and to develop a plan to address these gaps and deficiencies identified. The workshop results will directly feed into the preparation of the next GCOS Progress Review and the new GCOS Implementation Plan, to be developed in the 2015-2016 timeframe.

Workshop documents and further information can be found here. The final workshop report can be found here.


GCOS Reports by National Climate Observing Systems

The reports, prepared by National Climate Observing Systems, were developed in response to conclusions FCCC/SBSTA/2005/10 Paragraph 95 (2005) and FCCC/SBSTA/2007/L.14 (2007) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). They present the progress made in the implementation of GCOS on a national level, and give an overview of the observations made according to the list of GCOS Essential Climate Variables (ECVs).

Four reports have been published so far:

FINLAND - National Activities with Respect to the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Implementation Plan, Finnish National Report on Systematic Observations for Climate, Finnish Meteorological Institute, November 2013

GERMANY - German Climate Observing Systems, Inventory report on the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), Deutscher Wetterdienst, January 2013

GERMANY - Third Report of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany on Systematic Climate Observations in Germany as a contribution to Germany's Fifth National Communication under UNFCCC, August 2009


JAPAN - Japanese National Report on Systematic Observations for Climate - National Activities with Respect to the GCOS Implementation Plan, Japanese Meteorological Agency, August 2014 pdfPDF
NETHERLANDS - Climate Observation Systems in the Netherlands - National activities contributing to GCOS, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), October 2014 pdfPDF

SWITZERLAND - The National Climate Observing System, GCOS Switzerland, MeteoSuisse,October 2007

UNITED STATES - The United States National Report on Systematic Observations for Climate for 2008: National Activities with Respect to the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Implementation Plan, Working Group of the US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) on behalf of the US Government, September 2008

UNITED STATES -The United States Detailed National Report on Systematic Observations for Climate: US Global Climate Observing System (US GCOS) Program,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on behalf of the US Government, August 2001



Artist's impression of GCOS

GCOS encourages the use of Digital Object Identifiers

Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) attribute a unique reference to an electronic data set. They provide a permanent identifier that links the user to the current version of the relevant data sets. In view of the growing importance of data sharing, scientific experts from both the Atmospheric and Terrestrial Observational Panel for Climate recently discussed DOIs, as these can help researchers to discover relevant data more easily and attribute the data in a way that appropriately acknowledges its source. DOIs will in future enable to measure data usage to estimate its impact and influence. GCOS Panels encourage international data centres to introduce DOIs for their data records of Essential Climate Variables and recommend dataset producers in general to follow this practice.

For more information on this topic, read the discussion paper from the 2013 Session of the Terrestrial Observing Panel for Climate (TOPC): pdfPDF





Upcoming events


GCOS newsletter


The following GCOS reports have been published recently:

Report of the Twenty-Second Session of the WMO-IOC-UNEP-ICSU Steering Committee for GCOS, Geneva, Switzerland, 1-3 October 2014 GCOS-188 pdfPDF
Report of the Seventeenth Session of the GCOS/GOOS/WCRP Ocean Observations Panel for Climate (OOPC), Barcelona, Spain, 21-23 July 2014 GCOS-187 pdfPDF
Summary Report of the Ninth Session of the GCOS Cooperation Mechanism Board, Bonn, Germany, 3 June 2014 GCOS-186 pdfPDF
Report of the joint GCOS/GOFC-GOLD Workshop on Observations for Climate Change Mitigation, Geneva, Switzerland, 5-7 May 2014 GCOS-185 pdfPDF

Report of the Tropical Pacific Observation System 2020 (TPOS 2020) Workshop, Vol.1 - Workshop report and recommendations, Vol.2 - White papers, La Jolla , United States, 27-30 January 2014


Vol.1 pdfPDF

Vol.2 pdfPDF

Summary Report and Recommendations from the Nineteenth Session of the GCOS/WCRP Atmospheric Observation Panel for Climate (AOPC), Ispra, Italy , 9-11 April 2014 GCOS-183 pdfPDF
Workshop on the review of the GCOS Surface Network (GSN), GCOS Upper-Air Network (GUAN), and related atmospheric networks, Ispra, Italy, April 2014 GCOS-182 pdfPDF
GCOS Programme Review - Synthesis Report, Geneva, Switzerland, March 2014 GCOS-181

pdfPDF - english

pdfPDF - french

pdfPDF - spanish

pdfPDF - russian

pdfPDF - chinese

Report of the Fifth GCOS Reference Upper-Air Network Implementation and Coordination Meeting (GRUAN ICM-6), Greenbelt, USA, 10-14 March 2014 GCOS-180 pdfPDF
Summary Report of the Sixteenth Session of the GTOS/GCOS/WCRP Terrestrial Observation Panel for Climate (TOPC), Ispra, Italy, 10-11 March 2014 GCOS-179 pdfPDF
Scoping Meeting for the Assessment of the Adequacy of the Global Observing System for Climate, Geneva, Switzerland, 12-13 December 2013 GCOS-178 pdfPDF

Last modified on Mon, 19 Jan 2015