United Nations System-Wide
Earthwatch
 
  Earthwatch Working Party 4
Geneva, 2-3 April 1998
Agenda Item 11

UNEP/EWWP4/Inf.1 of 31 March 1998
Information Paper 1

THE GLOBAL OCEAN OBSERVING SYSTEM (GOOS)

prepared by the GOOS Project Office
Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

The GOOS is designed to provide information to governments, industry, science and the public about the present and future states of seas and oceans and their living resources, and on the role of the oceans in climate change. The foundations are in place and that the existing states of scientific knowledge, technical capability, and current operational systems point to the need for incremental, progressive implementation now. Direct potential beneficiaries include the managers of coastal defences, ports and harbours, fishing and fish farming, shipping, offshore industry, and recreation. Indirect beneficiaries, through climate forecasting based on ocean observations, include the suppliers on land of food, energy, water and medical supplies (e.g. for epidemics of malaria like those associated with El Niño events). Economic analyses suggest that the costs and benefits of operating the GOOS are likely to be similar to those of the World Weather Watch, an analogous system that underpins all weather forecasting.

Planning is coherent, well-founded, and widely accepted at intergovernmental, regional, and local levels; uncertainties as to method and objectives are being properly researched in a phased and progressive manner; the operational systems are being based on sound science and technology; thought-out strategies, achievable priorities, targets and milestones have been set, and methods of accomplishing them have been defined; and these have been reviewed and endorsed at an appropriate level. The legal basis for proceeding is defined by various international Conventions and Action Plans, including: the Convention on the Law of the Sea; the Framework Convention on Climate Change; the Biodiversity Convention; Agenda 21 (agreed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992); the Global Plan of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities; the London Dumping Convention; the Agreement on Highly Migratory and Straddling Stocks, and so on. Ocean information is needed by governments to meet their obligations under these Conventions.

The GOOS was created in 1991 in response to the desire of many nations to improve management of seas and oceans, and to improve climate forecasts, for which it is necessary to establish observations dealing with physical, chemical and biological aspects of the ocean in an integrated way. The GOOS is part of an Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS) in which the UN agencies (UNESCO and its IOC; WMO, UNEP, and FAO) are working together and with ICSU and the satellite agencies (through the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites - CEOS). In that context, the GOOS forms the ocean component of the GCOS (Global Climate Observing System) and the marine coastal component of the GTOS (Global Terrestrial Observing System). The GOOS itself is sponsored by the IOC of UNESCO, WMO, UNEP and ICSU.

The primary objectives of the GOOS are:
1. to specify the marine observational data needed on a continuing basis to meet the needs of the world community of users of the oceanic environment;
2. to develop and implement an internationally co-ordinated strategy for the gathering, acquisition and exchange of these data;
3. to facilitate the development of uses and products of these data, and encourage and widen their application in use and protection of the marine environment;
4. to facilitate means by which less-developed nations can increase their capacity to acquire and use marine data according to the GOOS framework;
5. to co-ordinate the ongoing operations of the GOOS and ensure its integration within wider global observational and environmental management strategies.

The GOOS is being implemented through 5 overlapping phases:
1. planning, including design and technical definition;
2. operational demonstrations and pilot experiments;
3. incorporation of suitable existing observing and related activities and new activities that can be implemented now to constitute the GOOS Initial Observing System;
4. gradual operational implementation of the ípermanentí or ongoing Global Ocean Observing System;
5. continued assessment and improvement in individual aspects and in the entire system.

The first phase is well advanced, and a 'Strategic Plan and Principles of GOOS' has been published. The initial shape of the GOOS is being developed by advisory panels dealing with: (i) climate; (ii) coastal seas; (iii) living marine resources; (iv) the health of the ocean (ie pollution); and (v) marine meteorological and oceanographic services. These panels report to the GOOS Steering Committee (GSC), that is responsible for the design and implementation of the GOOS. An Intergovernmental Committee (I-GOOS) assists in gaining intergovernmental support and approval for the design and implementation. Building the capacity of developing nations to contribute to and benefit from the GOOS is the responsibility of a Capacity Building Panel reporting to the GSC and I-GOOS.

A GOOS Agreements meeting in October 1998 will assist the development process by providing governments with an opportunity to sign up to the Principles of the GOOS, and their operational agencies with an opportunity to commit certain of their current operational resources to the GOOS to enhance its implementation. Many individual governments have already established, or are creating, their own national GOOS committees to oversee their contribution to the GOOS.

Phase 2 has begun with the formation of pilot projects to test the operation of the GOOS in specific regions, and to refine the GOOS subsystems. The NEAR-GOOS pilot project covers North East Asian seas. It focuses initially on developing data exchange between its partners, and on building the user community. In the future it will develop a numerical modelling and forecasting capability. The initial focus is primarily on physical data. In Europe, the EuroGOOS Association of 30 operational agencies from 15 countries is bringing researchers and operators together to create more efficient and effective observing systems for the Arctic, Baltic, Mediterranean, and North West Shelf of the continent, in the process identifying the needs for research and technology to make GOOS more effective in the future. Ocean modelling and forecasting figures high on their agenda, along with improved data exchange. An Atlantic-scale project is proposed to provide improved boundary conditions for the forcing of models for European coastal seas. While the initial focus of EuroGOOS is on physical parameters, chemical (nutrient) and biological (plankton) parameters also feature prominently in the EuroGOOS programme. Active interest in building other regional projects has been expressed by the nations of: (i) the western Indian Ocean (WIOMAP); (ii) S. E. Asia (SEA-GOOS); (iii) Mediterranean (MED-GOOS); and south-west Pacific (Pacific-GOOS).

Technology demonstrator projects include PIRATA (Pilot Research Array (of buoys) in the Tropical Atlantic), and GODAE (Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment). PIRATA will demonstrate the value to climate forecasting of measurements from the equatorial Atlantic. GODAE will integrate and assimilate in-situ and satellite data in real time into global ocean models in order to depict ocean circulation on time scales of a few days and space scales of a few tens of kilometres, to demonstrate the viability of the GOOS in this domain.

Phase 3 has begun with the creation of a GOOS Initial Observing System (GOOS-IOS), from a number of pre-existing observing systems, each of which will continue to serve the group of clients for which it was originally set up. The systems include: the upper ocean measurements of the Ship of Opportunity programme (SOOP); the meteorological observations of the Voluntary Observing Ship (VOS) network; data from the fixed and drifting buoys co-ordinated by the Data Buoy Co-operation Panel (DBCP); data from the buoys of the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) array set up to monitor El Niño events in the equatorial Pacific; the tide gauge data from the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS); data from the Global Temperature and Salinity Profile Programme (GTSPP); information from the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN); and communication through the Internet and the Global Telecommunications System (GTS) of the WMO.

At this time, apart from the GCRMN, these measuring systems are concerned primarily with physical observations. However, consideration is now being given to what chemical and biological information is required and how to integrate it with physical data. Living marine resources exist mostly in the coastal zone, but the monitoring requirements for living resources and coastal seas remain under development. The challenge is to develop a high quality, integrated approach to coastal monitoring and forecasting, taking into consideration the needs of resource managers. Examples of existing observing systems currently under consideration include the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) programme of the IOC; the international Mussel Watch programme; the Marine Pollution and Monitoring Programme (MARPOLMON); and the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) programme.

Phase 4 will involve continued integration of other components like these, and including new systems, with every attempt to enlarge the range of variables to include chemical and biological ones pertaining to the management of sustainable healthy coasts, including living marine resources and ecosystems.

Implementation will proceed following two parallel tracks:
1. coastal and shelf monitoring and prediction;
2. open ocean monitoring and prediction.

Within both themes it is suggested that investment should be focused on actions that:
1. have a high impact in terms of the delivery of the data and information that are needed;
2. are known to be feasible and thus likely to be successful;
3. continue and enhance activities that are already proving their worth, and encourage replication or expansion at a low level of risk;
4. comprise more substantial demonstration projects having community support;
5. give effect to intergovernmental Conventions and Agreements.

Within theme 1 (Coastal) the following actions are called for:
1. maintenance of the existing programmes of the GOOS-IOS;
2. enhancement of the capability of existing platforms (e.g. by equipping meteorological buoys to make subsurface measurements; by equipping fixed and drifting buoys with chemical and biological sensors; by equipping Ships of Opportunity to make a wide range of automated measurements including chemical and biological);
3. development of automated biological and chemical sensors and methods to reduce the difficulty of making such measurements;
4. expansion of geographic coverage of observing systems to include data sparse areas;
5. adapting roles of existing operational modelling centres to include a wide range of marine modelling;
6. creation of improved bathymetric databases to underpin numerical modelling of shelf seas;
7. implementation of key priorities and achievement of key milestones in NEAR-GOOS and EuroGOOS;
8. implementation of US Coastal GOOS;
9. application of the lessons of NEAR-GOOS and EuroGOOS to other regions.

Within theme 2 (Open Ocean) the following actions are called for:
1. the conduct of Observing System Simulation Experiments (OSSEs) to assist in prioritising the design of the GOOS for seasonal to inter-annual forecasting;
2. the prioritisation and implementation of in-situ monitoring networks that complement the space component;
3. the definition of contributions needed to maintain and adapt existing systems;
4. establishment of GODAE as a unifying framework for a concerted effort involving both researchers and operational agencies;
5. incremental enhancement of the capabilities of observing systems by (i) addition of new or improved sensors (e.g. optical, acoustic, salinity) to existing platforms; (ii) operational support for PIRATA beyond 2000 AD; (iii) other extensions of the TAO network (e.g. to include the Indian ocean).
6. maintenance of important time series;
7. support for projects within WOCE, JGOFS, CLIVAR, and GLOBEC that contribute to the development of the GOOS;
8. support for regional monitoring and modelling of the Arctic, Atlantic and North Pacific;
9. Prioritisation of technology development in the fields of:
- acoustic thermometry and tomography;
- salinity measurements
- profiling floats
- autonomous underwater vehicles
- acoustic Doppler current profilers for deployment on VOS
- better definition of ice cover at the ice edge
- anti-fouling (for improved instrument performance)
- optics and acoustics for biological measurements

Although, at first sight, this theme might appear to be of less interest to living resource managers than is the coastal theme, the living marine resources of coastal seas are affected by large scale, open ocean phenomena. Examples include the El Niño and its massive impact on the fisheries of many countries, and the huge regime shifts in sardines and anchovies in many coastal fisheries in recent decades, which reflects some very large scale forcing. The Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem study (section 5.6) is targeted on this issue.

In due course, when the module panels have developed their initial plans, the present modular panel structure of the GOOS will need to be changed to reflect the thematic structure of this implementation framework.

Achievement of this implementation framework, and the necessary review of performance of the system required for phase 5, demand the provision of appropriate structural support and expertise to: (i) conduct appropriate planning and co-ordination; (ii) ensure creation, maintenance and promotion of internationally accepted operational procedures and practices; (iii) facilitate training and awareness and capacity building.

Among the key items in the resulting infrastructure are:
1. establishment of an Information Centre;
2. establishment of a Data and Information Management Service and employment of a Data Co-ordinator;
3. negotiation of a data policy (the default is application of the data policies of the sponsoring organisations).
4. development of methods to assist capacity building targeted on the GOOS;
5. improvement of investment in that capacity building.

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