Global Climate Observing System (GCOS)

The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) is based upon the coordination of existing and planned operational observing systems and research programmes for observing global climate.

Clouds, sky

GCOS was established in 1992 following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by WMO, IOC of UNESCO, UNEP and ICSU, our predecessor organization, to establish a Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). GCOS is an outcome of the Second World Climate Conference in 1990 to ensure that the observations and information needed to address climate-related issues are obtained and made available to all potential users.

GCOS will ensure that climate observations must be enhanced and continued into the future to enable users to: detect further climate change and determine its causes; to model and predict the climate system; to assess impacts of climate variability and change; to monitor the effectiveness of policies for mitigating climate change; to support adaptation to climate change; to develop climate information services; to promote sustainable national economic development; and to meet requirements of the international environment conventions and agreements and those of the UNFCCC.

GCOS’ goal is to provide comprehensive data and climate information on the total climate system, including a range of physical, chemical and biological properties, along with atmospheric, oceanic, hydrologic, cryospheric and terrestrial processes. GCOS also promotes further developments of these systems and programmes to ensure the required scope and continuity of observations for climate analysis and prediction.


⭐ The ISC and GCOS

Among other elements, the ISC and the other co-sponsors establish the GCOS Steering Committee and provide scientific and technical guidance for the organization and further development of the GCOS. The Steering Committee, consisting of a Chair and three Vice-Chairs are selected by the Executive Heads of the sponsoring organizations, is regarded by the co-sponsors as the main scientific and technical body for formulating the overall concept and scope of the GCOS. Co-sponsors also support, through appropriate administrative and financial arrangements, the activities of the Steering Committee and Secretariat for GCOS. In other words, the sponsoring organizations decide both who leads the GCOS and what duties to prescribe to the GCOS.

This involves the ISC contributing to the development and approving strategy and activity plans, as well as associated budgets. The ISC also establishes and appoints international steering/advisory committees, with the possibility for ISC members to submit nominations as part of the process. The ISC is also in charge of reviewing GCOS, defining review terms of reference, appointing review panel members, funding ISC representatives.


Image by Sam Schooler on Unsplash

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