change looms in the forefront of the international political
agenda. The release of large amounts of greenhouse gases into
the atmosphere provides a potential for climate modification
unprecedented in human history. Documenting the present state
of the climate, monitoring its condition, and developing an
understanding of its evolution is essential.
Scientists need systematic and comprehensive global observations
in order to detect climate change, predict its variability
and provide reliable short-term forecasts. In 1992, four international
organizations created the Global Climate Observation System
(GCOS) to coordinate the acquisition of this critical information.
The Global Climate Observing System insures and coordinates
the acquisition of data for:
system monitoring, climate change detection and response
monitoring especially in terrestrial ecosystems;
of climate information to national economic development;
toward improved understanding, modelling, and prediction
of the climate system.
prioritizes the observations needed for:
of seasonal and interannual climate variability;
of climate change;
of uncertainties in climate prediction.
GCOS approaches climate as an integrated system that includes
the atmosphere, the oceans, the land
surface, the cryosphere, and the biosphere.
It proceeds according to the following strategy:
the current observing systems and define the initial operational
observing system to be realized early in the next century.
and specify key observations that are urgently required
and which should be added to the operational system as soon
future research and development that will likely lead to
additional operational requirements to the programme.
Scientific and Technical Committee formulated the concept
and scope of the climate observing system. It identified requirements,
defined objectives and recommended coordinated actions. This
committee now reviews the Climate Observing System. A Joint
Planning Office, established in Geneva at the World Meteorological
Organization, supports the committee and its efforts.