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The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) was established in 1992 to ensure that the observations and information needed to address climate-related issues are obtained and made available to all potential users. It is co-sponsored by the

Terms of reference of the co-sponsorship are detailed in the GCOS Memorandum of Understanding. The original version was signed in 1992, an updated version followed in 1998.

GCOS Memorandum of Understanding (1992)

GCOS Memorandum of Understanding (1998)

GCOS is a long-term, user-driven operational system capable of providing the comprehensive observations required for monitoring the climate system, for detecting and attributing climate change, for assessing the impacts of climate variability and change, and for supporting research toward improved understanding, modelling and prediction of the climate system. GCOS addresses the total climate system including physical, chemical and biological properties, and atmospheric, oceanic, terrestrial hydrologic, and cryospheric components.

The GCOS programme stimulates, encourages, coordinates and otherwise facilitates the taking of the needed observations by national or international organizations in support of their own requirements as well as of common goals. It provides an operational framework for integrating, and enhancing as needed, observational systems of participating countries and organizations into a comprehensive system focussed on the requirements for climate issues. The GCOS programme does not directly make observations nor generate data products.

GCOS builds upon, and works in partnership with, other existing and developing observing systems such as the WMO Global Observing System and Global Atmosphere Watch, the Global Ocean Observing System, and the Global Terrestrial Observing System. It includes in situ, airborne and space-based observational components.