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Public Review of 2015 GCOS Status Report

The public review period of the 2015 GCOS Status Report, Status of the Global Observing System, has now finished.

Review comments are now being considered and a revised draft will be presented to the GCOS Steering Committee at the end of September for their approval.

If there are any late comments please send them to gcosreview@wmo.int as soon as possible so that they can be addressed before the meeting of the GCOS Steering Committee.

In November 2012, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change invited GCOS to submit a report on the assessment of the adequacy of the global observing systems for climate. The GCOS Secretariat and leading key experts have prepared a draft Status Report of the Global Observing System for Climate for submission to GCOS' sponsoring organizations and Parties to the UNFCCC. It reviews the overall status of each Essential Climate Variable, assesses progress against the GCOS Implementation Plan and identifies gaps. This report will be submitted to the 43rd session of the SBSTA, at UNFCCC`s Conference of the Parties, COP 21, to be held 30 November to 11 December 2015, in Paris. It is important for climate observations to improve understanding and prediction of climate change. The needs of climate services, such as adapting to climate change and variability, are evolving. In addition, the upcoming UNFCCC meeting in Paris will be important for future climate policies. Therefore, we would like to invite as wide a range of reviewers as possible to review this report in whole or the parts relevant to you, and submit comments to us. All comments will be considered by the authors.

The Road to the Future


2-4 March 2016, Amsterdam

Climate observations are essential for understanding the complexities of the global climate system, indeed virtually all breakthroughs that have been made in understanding climate have come from observations. This is why it is crucial to make further progress towards achieving a fully implemented, sustainable, global observing system for climate. The next Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) status report will be compiled and published during the course of 2015 and will help to critically assess the current system and provide the basis for the next GCOS Implementation plan. Ahead of this, the conference Global Climate Observation: the Road to the Future is convened from 2-4 March 2016 at the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam, to allow experts dealing with climate observations and other key stakeholders the opportunity to their views and input into the new GCOS implementation plan prior to its publication.

GCOS is responsible within the United Nations framework, for ensuring a sustained, long term, reliable system for monitoring the global climate.  An important aspect of this is the definition of Essential Climate Variables (ECVs), which are critical to our understanding of the climate. This conference will be the opportunity for experts to discuss current efforts with respect to the 50 GCOS ECVs that support the work of the UNFCCC and the IPCC, and many other international organisations and programmes, and to highlight possible new ECVs. These discussions will be a key input into the new GCOS Implementation Plan.

The new plan will take into account requirements for observations with regard to climate services from various initiatives including the GEO-led Blue Planet, the ICSU-led Future Earth, the UNEP-led programme PROVIA and the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report.  New developments in climate observing systems and frameworks within the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) such as the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) and the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS) will also be considered in this plan.

Please mark your calendars now for this important conference from 2-4 March 2016. The registration page for the conference will open in due course and more detail on the programme will be available at that time.  Please also pass this announcement on to colleagues and contacts who would also be interested in participating.

In the meantime if you have any questions related to the conference, do not hesitate to contact Carolin Richter, Director GCOS crichter@wmo.int or the organising committee GCOS-SC@eumetsat.int via email.


The report of the joint GCOS - UNFCCC - IPCCC workshop held on Bonn, Germany 10'12 February GCOS Workshop on Enhancing Observation to Support Preparedness and Adaption in a Changing Climate - Learning from the IPCC 5th Assessment Report (GCOS-191) is now available subject to a final copy edit. The final version of this file will be released as soon as possible.





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 20th Session of the GCOS/WCRP Atmospheric Observation Panel for Climate (AOPC-20) WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland 17-20 March 2015 GCOS-190 pdfPDF
Report of the 17th Session of the GCOS/GTOS/WCRP Terrestrial Observation Panel for Climate (TOPC-17) WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland 16-18 March 2015 GCOS-189 pdfPDF
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