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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:

The Atmospheric, Ocean and Terrestrial Observation Panels for Climate (AOPC, OOPC, TOPC) gather scientific experts in the respective areas to generate inputs from these fields to the climate observing community.

GCOS has also co-sposored the former WCRP Observations and Assimiliation Panel (WOAP).