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Global Observing Systems

In the 1980s several UN agencies, in particular IOC, WMO and UNEP, recognized the need for a comprehensive, long-term, global monitoring programme to observe phenomena related to climate change.

They began preparations for such a programme, taking advantage of ongoing international, regional and national programmes in this area - for example, the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE), Tropical Oceans and Global Atmosphere (TOGA), Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (GOFS), Integrated Global Ocean Service System (IGOSS), Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS), etc. (see links below).

Their draft proposal for a "Long-Term Global Monitoring System of Coastal and Near-Shore Phenomena related to Global Climate Changes" was submitted to experts for consideration in 1990. Years later these efforts have borne fruit, and three inter-related global systems to observe the environment of the planet are being organized by United Nations organizations in cooperation with the scientific community and national governments to become the main elements of the UN-EARTHWATCH. These include:

Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) plans the collection of data on long-term climate change. It is sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)of UNESCO, the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The GCOS Joint Planning Office is located at WMO in Geneva.

Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) implements operational observation programmes for the oceans and coastal areas, related to five programme areas: Climate change and Variability, Marine Living Resources, Oceanographic Data Services, the Coastal Zone and Health of the Oceans. It is sponsored by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, the International Council for Science (ICSU), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The GOOS Project Office is located at IOC in Paris.

Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) develops and networks observations of long-term changes in land quality, availability of freshwater resources, pollution and toxicity, loss of biodiversity, and climate change. It is sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Council for Science (ICSU), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The GTOS Secretariat is located at FAO in Rome. Visit the GTOS website. These and other major satellite and surface-based systems for global environmental observations of the atmosphere, oceans and land are partners in the Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS).