– CEOS ensures international coordination of civil space-based Earth observation programmes
– GCOS is progressing the systematic definition of climate information needs in support of the UNFCCC, while CEOS is coordinating the planning of the satellite contribution to fulfil them.
The nature of climate change issues presents special challenges in terms of the need for global information and data on key planetary indicators that can provide the information required for governments and policy makers to make well-informed decisions. No single country can satisfy all of the observational requirements that are necessary for comprehensive and sustained monitoring of the Earth system, so governments are taking steps to harmonise and integrate their observing networks and satellite observing systems so that all the necessary measurements are provided in an affordable and optimised way.
CEOS is the mechanism through which governments collaborate on satellite missions, data systems and global initiatives to achieve this.
The definition of the Implementation Plan for GCOS in 2004 provided space agencies with a new clarity, focus and a sense of the priorities in addressing the needs of the UNFCCC. The CEOS-GCOS relationship in service of the UNFCCC has been, and will continue to be, a vital mechanism in managing the definition and operation of the satellite missions required to address society’s climate information needs, including the information needed to execute any agreement reached in Paris at COP21. The heritage and importance of the CEOS-GCOS relationship is explained below.
CEOS is the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, created in 1984 in response to a recommendation by a
Panel of Experts on Remote Sensing from Space, under the aegis of the G7 Economic Summit of Industrialised Nations Working Group on Growth, Technology and Employment.
CEOS was established to provide coordination of the EO being provided by satellite missions, recognising that no single programme, agency or nation can hope to satisfy all of the observational requirements that are necessary for improved understanding of the Earth system. Since its establishment, CEOS has provided a broad framework for international coordination on space-borne EO missions.
CEOS has three primary objectives:
– To optimise the benefits of space-based Earth observation through cooperation of CEOS Agencies in mission planning and in the development of compatible data products, formats, services, applications and policies;
– To aid both CEOS Agencies and the international user community by, among other things, serving as the focal point for international coordination of space-based Earth observation activities, including the Group on Earth Observations and entities related to global change;
– To exchange policy and technical information to encourage complementarity and compatibility among space- based Earth observation systems currently in service or development, and the data received from them, as well as address issues of common interest across the spectrum of Earth observation satellite missions.
CEOS membership has reached 31 space agency Members in 2015, comprising most of the world’s civil agencies responsible for EO satellite programmes.
CEOS established a new Working Group on Climate (WGClimate) in 2010, as the centrepiece of its contribution to climate change monitoring. WGClimate coordinates and encourages collaborative activities between the world’s major space agencies in the area of climate monitoring with the overarching goal of improving the systematic availability of Climate Data Records through the coordinated implementation and further development of a global architecture for climate monitoring from space (see Section 5). The Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites (CGMS) has co-led the WGClimate with CEOS since 2013, bringing the vital contribution of the meteorological satellite agencies more closely into the coordinated effort and global architecture implementation.
In response to the requirements set by GCOS, WGClimate facilitates the implementation and exploitation of ECV time- series through coordination of the existing and substantial activities undertaken by CEOS Agencies.
CEOS & GCOS in Support of UNFCCC
Part II of this document includes an article by GCOS on the heritage of its vital work in defining the requirements for information on the Earth’s climate and its periodic assessments as to the progress towards implementing a GCOS. At UNFCCC’s COP10 meeting in 2004, the Parties that support space agencies were invited to provide a response to the needs expressed in the first GCOS Implementation Plan. CEOS agreed to respond as the primary international forum for coordination of space-based EO through an initial series of 59 actions covering the atmosphere, ocean and terrestrial domains, and a number of cross-cutting issues. CEOS and GCOS agreed to associate priorities to each one of the 59 actions, based on an evaluation of their ability to deliver significant results in the short (1-2 years), medium (4-6 years) and long term (~10 years).
This interaction was the beginning of an on-going process to assess the adequacy of past, present and future satellite measurements in support of GCOS, with specific reference to the UNFCCC needs for satellite observations. The process continues to this day, with CEOS reporting every two years to UNFCCC through the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA: one of two permanent subsidiary bodies to the Convention; it provides information and advice on scientific and technological matters). This has provided a unique and structured opportunity for space agencies to review the way in which multi-agency cooperation on climate-related observations is prioritised, agreed, funded, implemented and monitored.
GCOS, in consultation with its partners, has developed a credible plan that, if implemented, will lead to a much- improved understanding of climate change. By working with GCOS, CEOS hopes to identify what can be achieved by better coordination of existing and future capabilities, as well as those improvements that require additional resources and/or mandates beyond the present capacity of space agencies. The CEOS reports to UNFCCC (including the latest provided ahead of COP21) are intended to initiate action and assist the Parties in advising and commenting on the planning actions within the agencies.
CEOS recognises that both satellite and in-situ data are required to better monitor, characterise and predict changes in the Earth system. While in-situ measurements will remain essential and largely measure what cannot be measured from satellites, satellites are the only realistic means to obtain the necessary global coverage for climate purposes and, with well-calibrated measurements, will become the single most important contribution to global observations for climate. As a consequence, the cooperation between CEOS and GCOS to define the information requirements needed by UNFCCC and its Parties, and to help plan the implementation of the satellite observing systems needed, is fundamental to the success of the Convention in implementing, managing and measuring the effectiveness of any agreement reached in Paris, as well as the related policies aimed at mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
The next key milestones in this process will be the submission of the latest GCOS Status Report to COP21 and of the latest GCOS Implementation Plan to COP22 in late 2016.
The 2014 Climate Symposium
Space agencies continue to seek opportunities for better coordination and optimisation of their observing strategies for climate information. In 2014, following the completion of the IPCC AR5, it was considered timely to discuss AR5 achievements, to assess future opportunities and challenges with satellite-derived climate information and to provide guidance on future priorities.
A Climate Symposium with the theme of “Climate Research and Earth Observation from Space – Climate Information for Decision Making” was organised by the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). The Symposium was structured around the “Grand Science Challenges” of the WCRP: Clouds, Circulation and Climate Sensitivity; The Changing Water Cycle; Cryosphere in a Warming World; Ocean Circulation and Regional Sea Level Rise; Prediction and Attribution of Extremes – from Climate to Weather; and Regional Climate Variability and Change – Enabling Climate Services.
The Symposium was an important step towards progressing requirements and the further development of an efficient and sustained international space-based EO system. It brought together international experts in climate observations, research, analysis and modelling to present and discuss results from their studies, with a particular emphasis on the role of space- based EO in improving our knowledge of the current climate at global and regional scales and in the assessment of models used for climate projections.