Climate observation networks

Climate observation networks

National climate networks

National climate observation network should give a satisfactory representation of the climate characteristics of all types of terrain in the territory of the country concerned (e.g. plains, mountainous regions, coasts, islands, etc.). Observations shall be made at least for extreme temperatures and amount of precipitation, other climatological elements can be included in the observation program such as wind direction and speed; cloud amount; type of cloud; height of cloud base; visibility;  humidity; atmospheric pressure; snow cover; sunshine duration and/or solar radiation; soil temperature. A climate station measuring all these elements is defined as a principal climate station. (Guide to Global Observation System)

The purpose of a National Climate Reference Network is to monitor climate on long term period and detect climate change signal at national level with great degree of reliability. Each reference climatological station should be sited with an adequate and unchanged exposure where the observations can be made in representative conditions expected to be free of development for many decades. Stations are monitored and maintained to high standards, and are calibrated routinely, e.g. on an annual basis. Each WMO Member state shall establish and maintain reference climatological stations.

Regional climate networks

Regional Basic Climate Network (RBCN) is a network composed of climatological stations with a specified observational programme within a WMO region, which is a minimum regional requirement to permit members to fulfill their responsibilities within the World Weather Watch and the World Climate Programme. The WMO regional associations are the governing bodies which decide on the implementation and strengthening RBCN in each region. The list of stations operating at regional level is maintained and updated by WMO. Several stations of this network are also operating as part of GCOS. Standard reports on climate elements are routinely produced by RBCN stations. CLIMAT report is the main of such reports which is produced for international exchange.

Global Climate Observing System

The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) is an internationally coordinated network of observing systems and a programme of activities that support and improve the network. It is designed to meet evolving national and international requirements for climate observations. GCOS was established in 1992 as an outcome of the Second World Climate Conference.

GCOS is sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Council for Science (ICSU).

Many observing systems contribute to the GCOS network of global observing systems for climate. In many cases they also serve other functions, such as weather forecasting or air-quality monitoring. The contributing systems include the climate-observing components of the IOC-led Global Ocean Observation System (GOOS), the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) led by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the WMO Global Observing System (GOS) and Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW). A number of other research and operational systems provide important contributions. The observations themselves may be ground-based, or from airborne or satellite systems. GCOS is both supported by and supports the international scientific community, and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) co-sponsors the expert panels set up by GCOS for the atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial domains.

A major part of the information on global observations for climate is assembled at the Global Observing Systems Information Center (GOSIC), which is hosted at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) located in Asheville, NC.  GOSIC represents an information center that facilitates the search of and access to data, data products, metadata and information for these networks.


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