United Nations System-Wide

A summary explanation

What is the vision of GOOS?
What precisely is it and what will it do?
Why do we need a global system?
What is global about coastal seas?
What is the economic significance of GOOS?
Who are the beneficiaries?
What is the legal basis for proceeding?
When did GOOS start?
How does it relate to other global initiatives?
How is GOOS progressing?
The Planning Phase
Pilot Projects
Capitalising on Existing Systems
Full-scale Development

What is the vision of GOOS? The vision guiding the development of GOOS is one of a world where the information needed by governments, industry, science and the public to deal with marine related issues, including the effects of the ocean upon climate, is supported by a unified global network to systematically acquire, integrate and distribute oceanic observations, and to generate analyses, forecasts and other useful products.

What precisely is it and what will it do? GOOS is conceived as:

- a sustained, co-ordinated international system for gathering data about the oceans and seas of the Earth,

- a system for processing such data, with other relevant data from other domains, to enable the generation of beneficial analytical and prognostic environmental information services, and

- the research and development on which such services depend for their improvement.

The primary objectives of 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 GOOS and ensure its integration within wider global observational and environmental management strategies.

GOOS will provide information about the present and future states of seas and oceans and their living resources, and on the role of the oceans in climate change. Its foundations are in place, and the existing states of scientific knowledge, technical capability, and current operational systems point to the need for incremental, progressive implementation now. In fact, implementation has begun, based on the integration of previously separate existing observing systems.

Why do we need a global system? Ocean processes know no national boundaries and the ubiquitous nature of many of the problems to be solved means that it is often prudent to implement even local and regional operational or research programmes co-operatively and in a co-ordinated way. Such co-ordination needs to be carried out so as to achieve economy of scale and mutual support, and to enable future global extension. The Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere (TOGA) Program is one such co-operative programme. It has established the basis of operational prediction of the onset of El Niño and the associated El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This has its origins in the tropical Pacific but creates ramifications well into the mid-latitudes on virtually a global scale.

There are some programmes that must be designed and implemented on an agreed international, global basis - where the problem being addressed is truly global, as in the case of large-scale oceanic circulation for example, or where the investment required is large and the benefits are essentially public goods, i.e. cannot be appropriated. Much of the monitoring and generation of advice relating to environmental change has these properties.

What is global about coastal seas? The achievement of a predictive understanding of coastal ecosystems depends on the development of regional to global networks that link observation and analysis in more effective and timely ways. GOOS is thus promoting integration of the fragmented coastal environmental research community and its linkage to the community at large, especially user groups like policy makers, environmental and resource managers, NGOs, the business community, and the public in general, to enable them to get the scientific information they need to make informed decisions in a timely fashion. GOOS is also promoting a broad-scale view of coastal ecosystems that takes into account the large scale forcing of the coastal system and which leads to reliable mechanisms for predicting environmental changes and their ecological consequences. The ultimate goal of Coastal GOOS is to encourage and support the development and application of now-casting, forecasting and predictive capabilities as a means of preserving healthy coastal environments, promoting sustainable uses of coastal resources, mitigating coastal hazards, and ensuring safe and efficient marine operations.

What is the economic significance of GOOS? A significant proportion of world economic activity and a wide range of services, amenities and social benefits depend on wise use of the sea. For many countries, marine resources and services provide 3-5% of their Gross National Products (GNP). For a few countries, the proportion is much higher. In the technically developed 'Group of Seven' countries, marine resources and services contribute, on average, 5% of GNP or about $600 billion per annum (1991). The vast majority of all international trade is carried by sea, with 3.5 billion tonnes of cargo transported in ships. By the year 2020, it is probable that 75% of the world's population will live within 60 km of sea coasts and estuaries. World production of offshore oil and gas was worth $135 billion in 1990, amounting to 20% of world hydrocarbon production. The world fish catch is 80-90 million tonnes/year, amounting to some 20% of the total human consumption of animal protein and worth approximately $70 billion. Wetland and other shoreline areas are extremely important breeding and spawning areas for many species of fish and other organisms and yet, globally, over 50% of such areas have already undergone severe environmental degradation. Expected growth in population with the attendant pressure on natural resources, suggests that the economic significance of the oceans is more likely to increase than to decline, as will the need for its sustainable use. Economic analyses suggest that the costs and benefits of operating GOOS are likely to be similar to those of the World Weather Watch, an analogous system that underpins all weather forecasting.

Who are the beneficiaries? Direct potential beneficiaries of GOOS will 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, will 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).

What is the legal basis for proceeding? 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 others. Ocean information is needed by governments to meet their obligations under these Conventions.

When did GOOS start? GOOS was created by the IOC Assembly in 1991 in response to the desire of many nations to improve management of seas and oceans, and to improve climate forecasts, for both of which it is necessary to establish observations dealing with physical, chemical and biological aspects of the ocean in an integrated way. Agenda 21 specifically calls for GOOS to be developed to meet the needs of coastal states for sustainable development of seas and oceans.

How does it relate to other global initiatives? 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 (via the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites - CEOS). In that context, the GOOS forms the ocean component of GCOS (the Global Climate Observing System) and the marine coastal component of the GTOS (the Global Terrestrial Observing System). GOOS itself is sponsored by the IOC of UNESCO, WMO, UNEP and ICSU.

How is GOOS progressing? GOOS planning is coherent, well-founded, and widely accepted at intergovernmental, regional, and local levels. Uncertainties as to method and objectives are being 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; methods of accomplishing them have been defined; and all these have been reviewed and endorsed at an appropriate level.

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 'permanent' or ongoing Global Ocean Observing System;
5. continued assessment and improvement in individual aspects and in the entire system.

The Planning Phase: 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.

Discussions are beginning to 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.

Pilot Projects: 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 four 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 16 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.

Capitalising on Existing Systems: 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. Data from these systems are supplemented by global coverage of the surface skin of the ocean from satellites, though none of these is operational. Calibration and validation of satellite data relies on ocean surface ocean observations from the GOOS Initial Observing System, and the success of ocean forecasts made by numerical models relies on the integration of remotely-sensed data from satellites with observations of the ocean's surface and subsurface that cannot be made from space.

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.

Full-scale Development: Phase 4 will be developed over the next 10-15 years. It will involve continued integration of other components like those mentioned above, 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 themes:
1. coastal and shelf monitoring and prediction;
2. open ocean monitoring and prediction.

Within coastal seas actions will focus on preserving healthy coastal environments, promoting sustainable use of coastal resources, mitigating coastal hazards, and ensuring safe and efficient marine operations. Open ocean operations will be more concerned with the short term needs of offshore industries, fisheries and ocean-going trade, with improvements to weather forecasting, and with the medium to longer term detection and forecasting of climate change. Open ocean operations are essential too for managers of coastal seas, in that coastal seas are affected by large scale, open ocean phenomena. Examples include the El Niño and its massive impact on the coastal fisheries of many countries, and the huge regime shifts in sardines and anchovies in many coastal fisheries in recent decades, which reflect some very large scale forcing. Measurements and numerical models of open ocean conditions will be used to provide the boundary conditions at the edges of regional numerical models of coastal seas, to ensure the accuracy of forecasts of coastal conditions.

Within both themes investment will focus 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.

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.

Infrastructure: Achievement of this implementation framework, and the necessary review of performance of the system required for phase 5, demand the provision by Member States 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;
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 GOOS;
5. improvement of investment in that capacity building.

Resources: GOOS will be implemented by nations working together. GOOS supporters are now in the process of convincing operational, research and aid agencies that implementation of GOOS can deliver worthwhile benefits for them and those they serve, at a reasonable level of risk which makes investment worthwhile. It is hoped that governmental authorities and international agencies will be persuaded that if the guidance is followed, a coherent effective global system will result, to provide the services they require and wish to encourage and sponsor. A first step will be the contribution of appropriate existing local and regional systems to GOOS by individual nations or groups of states. Equally important at this point in time is the enhancement of support for the GOOS infrastructure which is enabling GOOS to happen.

GOOS Project Office, IOC, UNESCO, 1 Rue Miollis, 75732 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 45 68 40 42; fax: +33 1 45 68 58 12

Visit the GOOS Homepage at URL: http://ioc.unesco.org/goos/

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