Global Climate Observation Conference 2016


2-4 March 2016 | Amsterdam, Netherlands

the Road to the Future

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. Observations provide critical benchmarks for testing and further developing our predictive capability through models. While the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR5) states that the human influence on the climate system is clear, it also notes that there are gaps in the current global climate observing system on which these statements are based.

There are also increasing needs for more detailed climate observations resulting from adaption planning to reduce risks from climate change and variability. This is why it is crucial to make further progress towards achieving a fully implemented, sustainable, global observing system for climate.

GCOS has been responsible since 1992 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for ensuring a sustained, long-term and 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 and that support the work of the UNFCCC and the IPCC, as well as many other international organisations and programmes.

The conference Global Climate Observation: the Road to the Future is being held to allow producers and users of climate observations and other stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the current monitoring of the Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) and to highlight possible new areas for ECVs. These discussions provide a key input into the new GCOS Implementation Plan that is now being prepared for UNFCCC in 2016.

Conference Goals

Making further progress towards a fully implemented, sustainable, global observing system for climate is crucial for improving understanding of the workings of the climate system and assessing its impacts. The conference aims to provide the forum for:

  • A community assessment of the quality of the current observing system. We aim to highlight key achievements in producing ECVs in the domains of GCOS: atmosphere, ocean and land and identify gaps.
  • A discussion on how the definition of ECVs contributes to understanding the key Earth System cycles of energy, water and carbon. While GCOS expects the list of ECVs to be stable as it is used as the basis for planning (e.g. by satellite agencies) it needs to be re-considered periodically to ensure it still meets the needs of users.
  • Identifying future needs in relation to adaptation and mitigation requirements and other conventions such as desertification, biodiversity and the SDG goals. An increasing focus on adaption and mitigation of climate change puts different demands on observing systems.
  • New developments, arising from requirements coming out of COP 21, and developments in technology, IT and communication of climate issues with the general public and policy makers.

For more information:

  GCOS 2016 Website

  GCOS 2016 Programme details

  GCOS Presentation Webpage

  World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Website

  Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) Website

  United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Website

  International Council for Science (ICSU) Website



Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam

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