Joint WMO/IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) overview
Updated on 9 May 2022
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The Joint WMO/IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) was formally established in 1999, by WMO Congress and the IOC Assembly, through a merger of the former WMO Commission for Marine Meteorology (CMM) and the Joint IOC/WMO Committee for the Integrated Global Ocean Services System (IGOSS).
A two-part interview with Dr Peter Dexter (Co-president of JCOMM in 2011) highlighted: the history of the Commission and the important role it performed (Part 1) and the challenges facing marine observation and looked ahead to the future of the Commission (Part 2).
The history, including the background, driving forces, key elements and players, of the establishment of the Joint WMO/IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (known as JCOMM), is described in the second publication in the series marking the 70th anniversary of WMO – The Establishment of the Joint WMO/IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology: A Personal History (WMO-No.1250), which is based on Peter Dexter’s 30 years or so of personal involvement, perspective and recollections, and provides a reliable account of historical events.
In 2019, based on the recommendations of the Joint WMO-IOC Consultation Group on the Reform of JCOMM, the 18th session of the World Meteorological Congress (Cg-18), through Resolution 9 (Cg-18), and the 30th IOC Assembly, through Resolution XXX-2, established the Joint WMO-IOC Collaborative Board as a high-level coordination mechanism with the broader engagement of the key relevant bodies of the WMO and IOC, to facilitate the continued work of all JCOMM functions and activities; and prepare a comprehensive and coordinated WMO-IOC Collaborative Strategy, and oversight its implementation. On the WMO side, the JCOMM functions and activities on observations and data management have been incorporated into the Commission for Observation, Infrastructure and Information Systems (INFCOM); and the JCOMM functions and activities on services have been incorporated into the Commission for Weather, Climate, Water and related-Environmental Services and Applications (SERCOM).
For nearly 20 years (from 1999 to 2018), worldwide marine meteorological and oceanographic communities had worked in partnership under the umbrella of JCOMM, in order to respond to interdisciplinary requirements for metocean observations, data management and service products. JCOMM met its mandate through:
- Further development of the observing networks under the guidance of the WMO-IOC-UNEP-ICSU Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), the WMO-IOC-UNEP-ICSU Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), the World Weather Watch (WWW) and other operational programmes, and cooperation with these bodies in seeking commitments for all components of an operational programme in the global oceans.
- Implementation of integrated end-to-end data management systems in collaboration with the Commission for Basic Systems (CBS), the Committee for International Data and Information Exchange (IODE), the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), and other appropriate data management bodies, to meet the real-time operational needs of the present operational systems and the global observing systems.
- Delivery of products and services needed by international science and operational programmes, Members of WMO, and Member States of IOC. An important component of this will be the coordination of the safety-related marine meteorological and associated oceanographic services as an integral part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
- Provision of capacity building through education, training, technology transfer and implementation support to Member States.
- Establishment and enhancement of partnerships, liaison and collaboration with other global programs and international agencies both within and outside the UN system.
From 2001 to 2005, JCOMM was organized within four Programme Areas, each managed by a Coordinator and small Coordination Group – Observations, Data Management, Services, and Capacity Building. Recognizing the capacity building cuts across the other Programme Areas, since 2005 onwards, JCOMM replaced its Capacity Building Programme Area by a Cross-cutting Team, with representation from the other three Programme Areas. Within each Programme Area, specific activities were undertaken by a number of Expert Teams, Task Teams and Panels. Overall guidance and oversight for the work of the Commission was provided by a Management Group chaired by the two co-presidents of JCOMM, and including the Programme Area Coordinators, representatives of GOOS, GCOS and IODE, and a small number of other selected experts.
Observations Programme Area (OPA)
The Observations Programme Area was primarily responsible for the development, coordination and maintenance of moored buoy, drifting buoy, ship-based and space-based observational networks and related telecommunications facilities. It also monitored the efficiency of the overall observing system and, as necessary, recommended and coordinated changes designed to improve it. It has inherited lead responsibility for a number of important and well-established observational programs, which were previously managed by other bodies. These are:
- VOS - The Voluntary Observing Ships scheme
- DBCP - The Data Buoy Cooperation Panel
- GOOS - The Global Ocean Observing System
- ASAP - The Automated Shipboard Aerological Programme
- SOOP - Ship-of-Opportunity Programme
- Argo - A Global Array of Profiling Floats
- GLOSS - Global Sea Level Observing System
- JCOMMOPS - JCOMM Observing Platform Support Centre (OCEAN-OPS)
The work done under this programme area supported the integration of marine meteorological and other appropriate oceanographic observations into the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS)
Data Management Programme Area (DMPA)
The primary objective of this programme area was to implement and maintain a fully integrated end-to-end data management system across the entire marine meteorology and oceanographic community. Activities under this programme area included (but not limited to):
- MCSS - Marine Climatological Summaries Scheme
- GTSPP - Global Temperature-Salinity Profile Programme
- GOSIC - Global Observing System Information Center
This programme area supported the development of interoperability arrangements between data systems such as the Ocean Data Portal (ODP) and the WMO Information System (WIS); and developed a JCOMM strategy for Data Management for 2018-2021.
Services and Forecasting Systems Programme Area (SFSPA)
The Services and Forecasting Systems Programme Area dealt with the provision of marine meteorological and oceanographic services around the globe. Consequently, it facilitated and supported the delivery of the most visible outputs of the world's marine meteorological and oceanographic organizations. These include warnings of gales, storms, severe tropical weather systems such as typhoons, hurricanes and tropical cyclones and marine-related hazardous phenomena, information on sea ice conditions and other products disseminated through the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) in response to requirements established under the SOLAS Convention. The continuing provision of safety-related weather and oceanographic services was an absolutely fundamental priority of JCOMM and of its Services Programme Area. The Services Programme Area coordinated international efforts on:
- IMO/WMO Worldwide Met-Ocean Information and Warning Service (WWMIWS) in support of GMDSS and International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS, 1074)
- EPB – IGOSS Electronic Products Bulletin
- MPERSS - Marine Pollution Emergency Response Support System
- The WMO Wave Programme
- Sea Ice Services and the Global Digital Sea Ice Data Bank (GDSIDB)
Throughout the years, the Services Programme Area evolved and addressed emerging topics, such as coastal hazards and disaster risk reduction; the transition of the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE) into GODAE OceanView and later to the OceanPredict, and related Operational Ocean Forecasting System; the transition from MPERSS to a marine environmental emergency response; and addressed the impacts of weather and climate to fisheries.
The first session of the Joint WMO/IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM-I) was held in Akureyri, Iceland, in June 2001.
JCOMM-I acknowledge the achievements under CMM, IGOSS and all the other components of JCOMM during the transitional period. Those included, inter alia:
- Further consolidation in the marine broadcasting system for the GMDSS, the MPERSS, the MCSS, the GTSPP and the GDSIDB;
- Implementation of the VOSClim Project, of the Worldwide Recurring ASAP project and of an operational SOOP;
- Substantial enhancements to global data buoy deployments and the commencement of the Argo project of sub-surface profiling floats;
- The implementation of the electronic JCOMM Products Bulletin;
- Major capacity building activities, including the South-east Asian Centre for Atmospheric and Marine Prediction (SEACAMP) and Western Indian Ocean Marine Applications (WIOMAP) projects and the preparation of a comprehensive JCOMM Capacity Building Strategy.
The session identified new priority areas to address during the intersessional period. Those included, in particular:
- The phased implementation of a fully integrated, operational ocean observing, data management and services system, using to the maximum extent the existing structures of WMO and IOC;
- Implementation of JCOMMOPS;
- Close collaboration with GOOS and GCOS, in particular in ocean observations and data management for climate;
- Implementation of the new JCOMM Capacity Building Strategy, which would include a number of new regional development projects and close interaction with potential external funding mechanisms.
The session agreed on the structure and sub-structure of the Commission, including the terms of reference of the Programme Area coordination groups, various expert teams, task teams and rapporteurs. At the Session, Dr Johannes Guddal (Norway) and Dr Savi Narayanan (Canada) were elected as co-presidents of JCOMM for meteorology and oceanography, respectively.
The Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology held its Second Session (JCOMM-II) in Halifax, Canada, between 19 and 27 September 2005. The Session was attended by 115 participants from 43 WMO Members/IOC Member States and 6 international organizations.
The core business of JCOMM takes place within the Programme Areas, and there was a clear recognition that the work is progressing well, with broad satisfaction with past achievements and ongoing activities. Highlights included:
- The GMDSS Marine Broadcast System was operating smoothly, with the new website increasingly utilized. There were some ongoing technical issues, including in particular the possible transmission of graphics over Inmarsat, as a part of the GMDSS services;
- The MPERSS was considered operational, a new standing Expert Team established, and an embryo website developed;
- Outline of a guide to storm surge forecasting was prepared. The finalization of this guide was considered a priority for the new intersessional period;
- The Expert Team on Sea Ice was preparing a substantial input to the IPY;
- The surface buoy network was essentially complete. Overall, the ocean in situ observing system was some 53% implemented, with the JCOMM plan driving to full implementation by 2010;
- There was close ongoing interaction with pilot projects and experimental systems such as Argo, OceanSITES, Ocean Carbon, etc;
- The value and further development of JCOMMOPS as a major technical information and support portal for in situ ocean observing systems were clearly recognized.
The Observations Programme Area had developed extensive observing system performance monitoring, with the results available through JCOMMOPS. The session agreed that JCOMM should implement a full system-wide performance monitoring, based on the implementation plan, with clear objectives, milestones, timelines, performance indicators, etc. This would be valuable in a number of ways, including for WMO and IOC Secretariat programme performance monitoring and for the full internal review of JCOMM, planned to take place prior to JCOMM-III.
With regard to data management, although a full merger of JCOMM Data Management and IOC/IODE was not being planned at that time, the practical coordination and cooperation between JCOMM and IODE were almost seamless. Similarly, interaction with the WMO Information Systems (WIS) was developing well. The Marine Climatological Summaries Scheme continued to operate, and some progress had been made with pilot projects in ocean data management.
A major new area of work for JCOMM in the intersessional period, and which was the subject of considerable effort and discussion in the lead up to and during the session, relates to operational oceanographic products and services. JCOMM adopted a recommendation, which proposed a number of specific issues and topics for the Commission to work with the ocean modelling and research community, in particular the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE), to help transition from pilot projects to true operational oceanography. These included standardized formats, protocols, procedures and nomenclature for the operational delivery of ocean data, products and services, as well as, more generally, the building of the business case for operational oceanography.
At the Session, Dr Peter Dexter (Australia) and Dr Jean-Louis Fellous (France) were elected as co-presidents of JCOMM for meteorology and oceanography, respectively.
The Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology held its Third Session (JCOMM-III) in Marrakesh, Morocco, between 4 and 11 November 2009. The Session was attended by 105 participants from 39 WMO Members/IOC Member States and 4 international organizations.
The Session reviewed achievements by JCOMM community during the past intersessional period, toward a fully integrated marine observing, data management and services system that uses state-of-the-art technologies and capabilities. JCOMM-III also agreed to work on an Operating Plan (2009) for the next intersessional period, taking into account the plans and strategies of the parent Organization, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. The JCOMM-III session report includes the following recommendations:
- For the current intersessional period, JCOMM-III agreed to put efforts on supporting standard setting and best practice. A network of Regional Marine Instrument Centres (RMICs) would be established upon the endorsement by the WMO and UNESCO/IOC Executive Councils.
- The JCOMMOPS office should continue to be based in Toulouse, France.
- WMO Members/IOC Member States recommended to submit proposals to the IODE-JCOMM Ocean Data Standards Pilot Project for wide community adoption.
- A Guide to Operational Ocean Forecasting Systems will be initiated for publication during the intersessional period (Recommendation 5 (JCOMM-III)), adding to the continuing work of the Commission to update and maintain the Guides to Wave Analysis and Forecasting, and Storm Surge Hindcasting and Forecasting;
- The JCOMM Services and Forecasting Systems Programme Area should focus on; 1) further development of forecast systems and services; 2) technical support for disaster risk reduction, and; 3) enhanced service delivery;
- Many Member States highlighted potentially important role of JCOMM in rendering services for society – including disaster risk reduction in coastal areas – and in the implementation of the new Global Framework for Climate Services, established at the World Climate Conference-3 (Geneva, 31 August to 4 September 2009). It is considered that JCOMM should make efforts to emphasize the importance of ocean and marine meteorological observations and services system in the development of Climate Services;
- Following the decision at the Forty-first Session of the Executive Council (IOC/EC-XLI/3, paragraph 221), it was agreed that an end-to-end review of JCOMM is timely at this stage in the Joint Commission’s lifetime noting that the review process: (i) should reside in and be carried out by the Governing Bodies of the two cosponsoring organizations, not by JCOMM itself, (ii) reflect the views of IOC Member States and WMO Members; (iii) would require extrabudgary support. Recommendation 15 (JCOMM-III).
Based on the requirements by the parent organizations and the discussion and decision at the Session, the Terms of Reference for JCOMM were revised. The format of these revised Terms of Reference was subsequently modified, based on recommendation from the annual meeting of the Presidents of WMO Technical Commissions (Geneva, 28–30 January 2010), with advice from the WMO Executive Council and the WMO Executive Council Working Group on Strategic and Operational Planning. It was endorsed by the IOC Executive Council (2010) and by the World Meteorological Congress in 2011.
At the Session, Dr Peter Dexter (Australia) and Dr Alexander Frolov (Russian Federation) were elected as co-presidents of JCOMM for meteorology and oceanography, respectively.
The fourth session of JCOMM (JCOMM-IV) was held in Yeosu, Republic of Korea, in May 2012. There were some 140 participants in the session, from 47 WMO Members/IOC Member States and 4 international organizations.
Session highlights were:
- Despite the intersessional period being shortened from the normal four years to two and a half years, a number of substantial achievements against the agreed work plan had been realized by the Commission. All Programme Areas (PAs) had developed realistic forward programmes for the next intersessional period, which was likely to be longer than usual.
- That the ocean observing system being coordinated through the JCOMM Observations Programme Area has reached 62% of the requirements specified in the Global Climate Observing System Implementation Plan (GCOS-138, revised in 2010), and recognized that new initiatives would be required by the Commission and WMO Members/IOC Member States to continue its growth. In this regard, concerns were expressed that the current global economic slowdown may make this a very challenging task.
- Appreciation was expressed for the excellent work being accomplished by JCOMMOPS in support of JCOMM and the ocean observing system, including the provision of an expanding range of operational system performance metrics, and the innovative ship chartering activities to support platform deployments.
- The successful completion of the JCOMM Pilot Project for WIGOS, and that the JCOMM Data Management Programme Area, working closely with the IOC International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE), had embarked on the implementation of many of the legacy recommendations from the project, including two Regional Marine Instrument Centres, which had already been implemented (in China and USA), and a third proposed in Morocco.
- The coordination, facilitation and standardization of marine and ocean product preparation and service delivery (including services for maritime safety and DRR) were a major part of the work of the Commission. The major thrust areas for the Services and Forecast Systems Programme Area (SFSPA) during the past intersessional period:
- Ensure maritime weather and sea ice safety including the operational implementation of five (5) new Arctic Ocean Metareas by July 2011;
- Implement operational ocean forecasting capability by initially developing a Guide to Operational Ocean Forecasting;
- Reduce risks of marine hazards on coastal communities in response to expected consequences of global climate change by implementing the recommendations of the first JCOMM storm surge symposium.
- JCOMM was directly involved in all the major WMO cross-cutting activities, including Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), WIGOS, WIS and the Quality Management Framework (QMF). In addition to the joint JCOMM/CHy CIFDP now underway, another significant new joint activity recently initiated joined the expertise of CAgM and JCOMM in a project to develop, as a contribution to the GFCS, data sets and tools to enable NMHS and other agencies, in particular in SIDS, to assess and respond appropriately to the impacts of climate variability and change on oceanic fisheries. JCOMM also contributed to several of the IOC High-Level Objectives.
- JCOMM Capacity development had been undertaken in accordance with a set of JCOMM Capacity Development Principles. The Commission expressed appreciation for the major events in the past intersessional period, which included three training workshops on wave and surge forecasting; courses and workshops on ocean data buoys (and the applications of buoy data) and tide gauges; a maritime safety services enhancement workshop; an ice analysts workshop; two training courses to enhance marine forecasting; and workshops on ocean data management, in conjunction with IODE.
The Session agreed that the future priority challenges of JCOMM, in response to the priorities of WMO and IOC. It, therefore, approved a Strategy for JCOMM 2012-2017, which includes:
- The long-term maintenance of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and its continued growth in accordance with GCOS identified requirements, encouraging the diversification of WMO Members/IOC Member States' contributions to observing networks and to JCOMMOPS, and establishing practical ways of seeking routes for funding new observing requirements;
- Input to Global Framework of Climate Services (GFCS) implementation;
- Promoting standards and best practices in observations and data management, and assisting the further development of the Ocean Data Portal and its interoperability with the WMO Information System (WIS);
- Underpinning the development of operational ocean forecasting services;
- Supporting disaster risk reduction in coastal zones and improving safety-related marine meteorological services;
- The implementation of quality management systems in national services, within an overall Quality Management Framework;
- Ongoing overall WIGOS implementation; and,
- Capacity development and resource mobilization in marine meteorology and oceanography.
The Session elected Dr Johan Stander (South Africa) and Dr Nadia Pinardi (Italy) as meteorology and oceanography co-presidents, respectively.
The fifth session of JCOMM (JCOMM-V) was held in Geneva, Switzerland, in October 2017. There were some 112 participants in the session, from 50 WMO Members/IOC Member States and 4 international organizations.
The session established national marine services focal points to support the implementation of metocean information services within national waters, under the framework of the IMO/WMO Worldwide Met-Ocean Information and Warning Service (WWMIWS).
The session decided on a number of issues, as follows:
- how and what to contribute to the programmes and activities of the parent organizations, as well as to the UNFCCC, Sendai Framework and Sustainable Development Goals;
- endorsed the Vision for the Services and Forecasting Systems Programme Area (SFSPA), which provided the rationale for its new structure. The vision for SFSPA was to focus resource primarily on its key outputs, which include: (a) responsibilities under the UN Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) that obliges Members to provide daily forecasts of winds, waves and other marine meteorological elements at least twice daily, under the supervision of the WWMIWS Committee; (b) enhancement of JCOMM’s role in providing support and response in the event of Marine Environmental Emergencies; (c) refreshment of the Expert Team on Waves and Coastal Hazard Forecasting Systems (ETWCH), through the Expert Team on Disaster Risk Reduction (ETDRR), to provide more focus on DRR implications associated with both the marine and coastal zone, including the SOLAS Convention, storm surge and inundation issues; (d) continuation of the work, through the WWMIWS Committee, towards the introduction of a range of competencies relating to the issuing of services to the marine sector; and (e) completion of the Guide to Operational Ocean Forecasting Systems. Additionally, the session authorized the SFSPA to establish a TT-SAT with the task of continuing and completing a satellite-specific statement of requirement of the marine and oceanographic community, by 2019;
- endorsed the Joint WMO and IOC Strategy for Marine Meteorological and Oceanographic Data Management for the period 2018 to 2021;
- endorsed the Observation Programme Area Vision for the next five years, as the guiding framework for the JCOMM OPA Workplan and organizational structure. The vision for OPA was to contribute towards a fit-for-purpose, integrated, and coherent ocean observing system that supported (a) a rapidly expanding set of weather, climate, marine and ocean services targeting stakeholders across the globe; and (b) a vibrant international research community (e.g. the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), the World Weather Research Programme (WWRP), and the International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project developing knowledge and solutions for the next decade;
- endorsed a JCOMM Capacity Development Vision.
Observing that by improving access to the GTS, a broader community of users and contributors would increase the quantity, quality, and uptake of data from the GTS thereby enabling the GTS to better support its stakeholders, the session decided to encourage the formation of an Open Access GTS node to expand access to GTS data streams through further exploitation of the capabilities demonstrated by the Pilot Project.
The session called for new Regional Marine Instrument Centres (RMIC), by urging WMO Members and IOC Member States to investigate the feasibility of offering additional RMIC facilities or specific RMIC functions (e.g. to contribute to a distributed RMIC in a region), especially within Regional Association III (South America), Regional Association V (Southwest Pacific), and Regional Association VI (Europe), and to collaborate with the existing RMICs.
The Session re-elected Dr Johan Stander (South Africa) and Dr Nadia Pinardi (Italy) as meteorology and oceanography co-presidents, respectively.
Technical Conferences associated with JCOMM sessions (TECOs)
Traditionally, CMM had arranged for the presentation of scientific lectures, on specific themes, as an integral part of its formal sessions, with the full texts of these lectures subsequently published by WMO and distributed to all Commission members. This has proven to be a very effective means of informing these members of the latest developments and status in scientific and technical fields within the terms of reference of the Commission. The interim Management Committee for JCOMM, therefore, agreed that this tradition should be continued under JCOMM.
One of the primary initial priorities for JCOMM was the development and implementation of operational oceanography, on the basis of designs and requirements expressed by the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), including, in particular, an operational ocean observing system for climate. Therefore, the theme for the scientific lectures to be given at JCOMM-I (Akureyri, Iceland, June 2001) as part of the first Technical Conference (TECO-I) was “Operational Oceanography”.
A scientific conference was organized prior to the 2nd session of JCOMM (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, September 2005). The team was: Marine Meteorology and Oceanography for the 21st Century. This conference was followed by the ceremonial launching of the 1250th global drifter, completing the drifting buoy array, the first component of the Global Ocean Observing System to be fully implemented.
Scientific lectures were arranged within the main technical part of the agenda of the 3rd session of JCOMM (Marrakech, Morocco, November 2009) on the theme of socio-economic benefits of met-ocean information and services. Since a large number of the population lives on the coast and depends on coastal resources and the marine environment, they are permanently at risk and are vulnerable to extreme met-ocean events. The lectures therefore were intended to serve as a means of informing WMO Members and IOC Member States on global and regional impacts of the provision of met-ocean information and services on the marine environment, including coastal zones, and socio-economic activities.
A Science and Technology Workshop on Improving Marine and Ocean Data and Products for Science and Society: the role of JCOMM was organized in conjunction with the 4th session of JCOMM (Yeosu, Republic of Korea, May 2012). All areas of JCOMM’s activities were covered within the overall theme of future improvements to JCOMM’s deliverables. Particular focus was directed towards new synergies between observing systems (both in situ and satellite), the development of enhanced modelling capabilities coupled to extended observational networks, and the increasing availability of better tools for climate forecasting and disaster management.
A technical conference “Toward an Integrated Met-ocean Monitoring, Forecasting and Services System” was held Prior to the 5th session of JCOMM (Geneva, Switzerland, October 2017). This conference provided an overview of the advances in marine meteorological and oceanographic (metocean) observing systems, data management and services. The aim was to properly interface the JCOMM management and expert groups with the WMO Members and IOC Member States’ activities and have them interact with a large community of stakeholders worldwide, gathered at the JCOMM-5 Session.
A “Women’s Marine Leadership” workshop was also help prior to the JCOMM-5 session. This workshop was designed for female delegates to JCOMM-5 and female professionals from WMO Members and IOC Member States, whose content was oriented towards building a set of practical leadership skills, with a focus on communications, negotiations and consensus-building.
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