GCOS is directed by a Steering Committee which provides guidance, coordination and oversight to the programme. Three science panels, reporting to the Steering Committee, have been established to define the observations needed in each of the main global domains (atmosphere, oceans, and land), to prepare specific programme elements and to make recommendations for implementation:
- Atmospheric Observation Panel for Climate (AOPC)
- Ocean Observations Panel for Climate (OOPC)
- Terrestrial Observation Panel for Climate (TOPC)
The GCOS Secretariat located at the WMO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, supports the activities of the Steering Committee, the panels and the GCOS programme as a whole.