What is IGOS?
 Why an IGOS?
 What does IGOS do?
 Who are the users?
 Who are the IGOS Partners?
 How is IGOS implemented?

The Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS) unites the major satellite and surface-based systems for global environmental observations of the atmosphere, oceans and land.

What is IGOS?

IGOS is a strategic planning process, involving a number of partners, that links research, long-term monitoring and operational programmes, as well as data producers and users, in a structure that helps determine observation gaps and identify the resources to fill observation needs.

IGOS is a framework for decisions and resource allocation by individual funding agencies, providing governments with improved understanding of the need for global observations through the presentation of an overarching view of current sustem capabilities and limitations - thereby helping to reduce unnecessary duplication of observations.

IGOS focusses primarily on the observing aspects of the process of providing environmental information for decision-making.

IGOS is intended to cover all forms of data collection concerning the physical, chemical, biological and human environment including the associated impacts.

IGOS is based on the recognition that data collection must be user driven, leading to results which will increase scientific understanding and guide early warning, policy-setting and decision-making for sustainable development and environmental protection.

IGOS provides opportunities for capacity building and assisting countries to obtain maximum benefit from the total set of observations.

Why an IGOS?

The range of global observations needed to understand and monitor Earth processes, and to assess human impacts, exceeds the capability of any one country. Cooperation is therefore necessary to address priorities without duplication or omission. Satellite missions and in situ networks require many years of planning. Observations of the state of and trends in planetary processes cut across land, water, air and oceans. National programmes need to fit into larger international frameworks, since the environment does not stop at national boundaries. Such complex activities require integration at many levels. IGOS provides both a strategic framework and a planning process to bring together remotely-sensed and in situ observations, from both research and operational programmes.

Through IGOS, data suppliers can respond to requirements that have been set by users.  Deficiencies are determined, resources identified, and observational programmes improved to ensure that observations are turned into useful products.

What does IGOS do?

The components of IGOS have considerable strategic importance, cutting across all observing activities. Major thrusts of IGOS as it proceeds will include:
strengthening space-based/in situ linkages to improve the balance between satellite remote sensing and ground- or ocean-based observing programmes;
encouraging the transition from research to operational environmental observations within appropriate institutional structures;
improving data policies and facilitating data access and exchange;
stimulating better archiving of data to build the long-term time series necessary to monitor environmental change; and
increasing attention to harmonization, quality assurance and calibration/validation so that data can be used more effectively.

Who are the users?

IGOS encourages dialogue with the principal user groups and institutions to determine the needs for global environmental information for decision-making, including:
international decision-making bodies such as the UN General Assembly, the Commission on Sustainable Development, and
the conferences of parties and secretariats to international and regional conventions;
international organizations;
national governments and their relevant ministries;
decision-makers and senior advisors;
the scientific community, international research programmes, and international scientific advisory processes;
the private sector;
non-governmental and public service organizations;
the media, journalists, and others specialized in communications;
the general public, grass-roots users and major groups.

Who are the IGOS Partners?

IGOS is developed by a Partnership including the following:
The Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), which coordinates national agencies launching satellites.
Integrated research programmes on global change within the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP);
The International Group of Funding Agencies for Global Change Research (IGFA).
International agencies sponsoring global observations, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC), International Council for Science (ICSU), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), and the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS), which organize global-scale operational observations of the climate, oceans and land surface.

The First IGOS Partners Meeting was held in June 1998, and meetings continue twice a year in association with CEOS Plenary sessions and meetings of the Sponsors Group for the Global Observing Systems.

How is IGOS implemented?

IGOS encourages the use of modular approaches to strategies for specific components that need to be integrated. The CEOS Strategic Implementation Team is taking the lead in developing the space component of an IGOS, while the G3OS and their sponsors are preparing an in situ component. These nested processes of strategic planning at different levels of integration are an important part of the IGOS process, allowing each subsidiary group to work out the specifics at its own level. IGOS itself helps to cap and interrelate these sub-components.

The IGOS partners have adopted a thematic approach with joint planning activities to address particular categories, cross-cutting themes or domains of observations, such as oceans, disaster management, or carbon storage and cycling.

Most environmental observations come from national activities contributed by national governments through their agencies and research programmes. Their commitment is essential to the effective implementation of IGOS. Building support for and participation in observing processes at the national level is a major activity for IGOS.

Six prototype demonstration projects have shown the benefits of an integrated strategic approach:
Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE);
Upper Air Measurements;
Long-term Continuity of Ozone Measurements;
Global Observation of Forest Cover;
Long-term Ocean Biology Measurements; and
Disaster Management Support.
Each addresses a specific issue for an integrated observing strategy, requires a defined set of tools, associates a wide set of partners, and is expected to produce specific products or results to demonstrate the IGOS concept. These demonstration projects are now being integrated into the thematic approach to move the whole strategic process forward in a more coherent way.

Identification of gaps to be filled and activities to be strengthened is another continuing function of IGOS. The Global Observing Systems Space Panel (GOSSP) assists this process.

The IGOS process promotes awareness of the value of implementing IGOS and hence the need for resources to be made available at a relevant level. It demonstrates the benefits from integrated global observations in contributing to meeting the political objectives that have been set to improve the way we understand and manage the Earth.

IGOS Homepage  Earthwatch Homepage

Maintained for IGOS by UN System-wide Earthwatch Coordination, UNEP Geneva