WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS) and WMO Information System (WIS)

WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS) and WMO Information System (WIS)


WMO Integrated Global Observing System provides a framework for the integration and sharing of observational data from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and other sources, while WMO Information System (WIS) connects all National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and regions together for data exchange, management and processing.

WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS)

Meteorology has made significant progress in the quality and diversity of weather forecast services since the launch of the first meteorological satellites in 1957/1958 gave rise to the World Weather Watch (WWW) in 1963. But current societal challenges – due to the unfolding impacts of climate change – demand further evolution of the Earth observation network: an upgrading of the global space- and surface-based observing systems and the adoption of a new and integrated approach that incorporates recent scientific and technical advances. This is the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS) of the World Weather Watch. WIGOS is enhancing understanding of our Earth System and facilitating the production of weather and climate services and products, through the provision of more and better observations.

Guiwan, Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan - Erik de Castro/ReutersAn aerial view of a fishing village, Guiwan, Philippines, devastated by super Typhoon Haiyan, 11 November 2013

WIGOS provides an over-arching framework for the coordination and optimized evolution of existing observing systems, which will continue to be owned and operated by a diverse array of organizations and programmes. It supports better use of existing and emerging observational capabilities. Although aimed primarily at improving the WMO observing systems, it also interfaces with co-sponsored and non-WMO observing systems, thereby engaging the essential regional and national actors for the successful integration of these systems.

WIGOS became operational in 2016. Regional and national implementation is now underway, following approval by respective WMO Regional Associations and national authorities of their tailored WIGOS implementation plans. The immediate goal is to facilitate the production of weather and climate services and products for the five intitial priority areas of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) – agriculture and food security, disaster risk reduction, energy, health and water.

WIGOS achieves interoperability and compatibility through the application of internationally accepted standards and best practices. Data compatibility is supported by the use of standardized data representation and formats. WIGOS aims to improve the quality and availability of data and metadata in order to develop capacity and to improve accessibility.

The principal areas of standardization include all the components of instruments and methods of observation, including surface-based and spacebased elements (observations and their metadata); WMO Information System (WIS) exchange as well as discovery, access and retrieval services; and data management (data processing, quality control, monitoring and archiving). Thus, the implementation of WIGOS focused on integrating governance and management mechanisms, functions and activities among the contributing systems.

Prospects for WIGOS

The international standards and best practices implemented by WIGOS permit National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) to build on past achievements to meet future challenges. New technology will provide a basis for further improvements in the reliability and quality of observations. Further development of integrated observing systems make it possible to provide observations of key atmospheric variables and processes relevant to weather, water and climate with high time resolution. Observing system test-beds are used to inter-compare and evaluate new instruments and systems, and develop guidelines for further integration into WIGOS.

As with WWW, WMO Members need to plan locally while thinking regionally and globally to realize the full benefit from the global observing systems. Members cannot individually meet their full needs solely through their own observing system – observations from others are essential and interdependence on global observations increases more and more as time horizons (from short to longer term weather predictions, and from local to large scale climate prediction) increase. For example, with improvement in seasonal-to-interannual forecasts, integration of observations from oceans and land will take on ever-increasing importance.

In the decades to come, WIGOS will enable WMO Members to better respond to natural hazards, improve weather, water, climate and related environmental monitoring, and adapt to climate change and human-induced environmental impacts while providing avenues for education, training and capacity development. These objectives are at the very core of the mandate of WMO, and are particularly evident in the GFCS. Through the development of standards and uniform observing practices, WIGOS will support the generation of quality-controlled products and information, thus underpinning the systematic development of needed infrastructure for effective climate services. The delivery of high-quality climate services will require better-coordinated and more comprehensive observing components, that can be supplied only by NMHSs working together with their national and international partners. WIGOS is to meet this need by providing compatible, quality-assured, quality-controlled and well-documented long-term observations.

The development of WIGOS will be requirements-driven with a clear orientation to public health, disaster risk reduction, water resource management and food security, renewable energy, tourism, travel, insurance, to mention just a few, as an enabler for sustainable development. A comprehensive review of new priorities and requirements will be crucial for WIGOS to respond to user needs for observations of specified spatial and temporal resolution, accuracy and timeliness. In doing so, WIGOS will build upon and add value to the existing surface and space-based subsystems, while providing a foundation for the integration of new and emerging observational technologies.

Optimizing network design – future outlook

In the near future, NMHSs and other data providers will need to coordinate efforts in order to address the observing network design. WIGOS tools will assist in minimizing duplication and optimizing design and flexibility to incorporate new observing systems/networks after their successful testing and evaluation. These networks are likely to incorporate a mix of systems with optimized geospatial/temporal distribution of observing points and data to meet global/regional/subregional/national needs in accordance with requirements of significant users and application areas, including the economic and communication sectors. Space-based components of WIGOS will play a key role in the composite network design and in filling the gaps of data sparse areas, such as oceans and Polar Regions.

WIGOS networkAt a national level, Members are likely to consider an integrated network of networks approach, where observing networks, technologies and processes will be optimised to ensure the most effective coverage of required observations, including planned redundancy for key measurements. The network would engage the wider community of institutions monitoring the environment to maximize the value of data from all sources. An integrated network of networks will balance traditional and innovative approaches to provide a comprehensive approach to monitoring that will evolve while still maintaining a connection to the historical record. It will also balance user needs with operational and technical constraints, and use redundancy to achieve quality, reliability and representativeness. Incorporating tiered networks as an integral part of the network of networks approach will facilitate the matching of observing solutions to needs as well as the integration of externally contributed networks and observations.

An issue that must be addressed in any consideration of future international cooperation is to reverse the on-going decline of observational capacity in many of the less developed countries. Satellites will, over coming decades, fill the data gaps and begin to provide more of the observations needed to support the required meteorological, hydrological and oceanographic services in such countries. However, while satellite data might fulfil the needs of some applications, national capacity to operate observing systems remains essential to meeting the full suite of requirements, including climate monitoring.

Partnerships and cooperation

WIGOS requires partnerships across borders, disciplines and organizations. Collaboration and cooperation is key. By providing more timely and accurate information, NMHSs help decision-makers protect populations and prevent natural hazards from becoming disasters. Investments in weather, climate and water information and services produce an economic return many times greater than the original amount invested, and represent an investment in well-being and prosperity for all.

WIGOS is central to the future of meteorological services. It provides a mechanism to better plan and implement observing solutions in all application areas.

Scope, Objectives, Structure and Components

Scope - WIGOS is the framework for all WMO observing systems and for the contributions of WMO to co-sponsored observing systems in support of all its programmes and activities. It aims to meet the evolving requirements of Members for observations. It focuses on the integration of governance and management functions, mechanisms and activities to be accomplished by contributing observing systems to satisfy the evolving observing requirements of Members in delivering their weather, climate, water and related environmental services.

Objectives - Through the application of internationally accepted stan­dards and best practices, WIGOS aims to provide sustainable, reliable and trusted observations, addressing in a cost-effective and sustained manner, the evolving observing requirements. In the decades to come, it will enable Members to better respond to natural hazards, improve weather, water, climate and related environmental monitoring, and adapt to climate change and human-induced environmen­tal impacts while providing avenues for education, training and capacity development. These objectives are at the very core of the mandate of WMO and are particularly evident in the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS).

Structure -  WIGOS implementation and further development is an integrated activity of all WMO and co-sponsored observing systems as WIGOS supports all WMO programmes and application areas. The Executive Council and Regional Associations, supported by their respective working bodies, have a governing role in its implementation. Leadership on technical aspects is provided through the Commission for Basic Systems (CBS) and the Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observation (CIMO). From a national perspective, Members are responsible for all activities connected with the implementation and operation of WIGOS on the territories of their individual countries.

Compenents - WIGOS components are the Global Observing System (GOS) of the World Weather Watch (WWW) Programme, the observing component of the Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme, the WMO Hydrological Observing System (WHOS) of the Hydrology and Water Resources Programme (HWRP) and the observing component of the Global Cryosphere Watch (GCW), including their surface-based and space-based components.

WMO Information System (WIS)

The WMO Information System (WIS) acts as a one-stop shop for all activities related to data management.Users with access privileges can easily find and retrieve all the weather, climate and water data and products they need in one place. Data and products that are of worldwide interest remain available in the 24-hour GISC cache. Authorized users can gain immediate access to data without waiting for requests to be routed through various GTS hubs before the data can be delivered. Furthermore, they can easily modify their data subscription and maintain their discovery metadata as needed.

WIS enables discovery of authoritative meteorological and hydrological data and supports the collection of data and its exchange between WMO Centres and their users. The "WIS Catalogue" describes the data and products available across WMO. Data and products are registered with the WIS by submitting a metadata record to the WIS Catalogue that describes the content, structure and access mechanisms for the associated data or product.

The majority of data and products published through WIS are provided as files and made available via FTP servers or distributed using the Global Telecommunication System (GTS) for exchange between collaborating Centres. However, the Web is increasingly used to publish data on WIS.



  • WIS Centres responsible for publishing data are designated either as a National Centre (NC) or a Data Collection and Production Centre (DCPC). The Centres are similar but the latter are affiliated with a WMO Programme rather than a national activity.
  • Global Information System Centres (GISC) are networks hubs that maintain synchronized copies of the WIS Catalogue, provide a portal to search the WIS Catalogue, maintain a cache of data and products for near-real-time exchange between operational centres and offer mechanisms to download or subscribe to data and products within the cache. It is important to note that this "global cache" represents a very small subset of the data that is discoverable on WIS. 

WIS Centres must be approved by the Permanent Representative to WMO of the country (or 'Member') within which the Centre is located. Furthermore, GISCs and DCPCs are required to demonstrate through independent audit their capability to meet the relevant WMO technical regulations. These constraints ensure that WIS remains an authoritative source of meteorological and hydrological data. The list of approved WIS Centres is published in Appendix B of the Manual on WIS (WMO-No. 1060): Approved WIS Centres.

To publish your data on the WIS, you must do so through a registered WIS Centre. The primary requirement to publish your data or product on WIS is to provide to the WIS Catalogue a metadata record that describes your data or product and how to access it. The arrangements to achieve this will vary between centres, but many offer a Web-based user interface for entering metadata to the WIS Catalogue removing the need for data publishers to work directly with XML.

Once your data are registered in the WIS Catalogue, your data may be accessed directly from FTP or Web servers hosted by your institution; for example, using a THREDDS Data Server.

However, if you are intending to routinely publish data (e.g. for real-time observations to be assimilated into operational weather prediction models) it may be pertinent, or even necessary, to distribute that data to other WMO centres through the WIS. Again, this must be achieved through a registered WIS Centre. The exact mechanism(s) used to pass your data to the affiliated centre for onward transmission will vary, but will typically options include direct dissemination from satellite data collection platforms, FTP / SFTP and email. One mechanism that your affiliated WIS Centre may use to distribute the information is the part of WIS known as the Global Telecommunication System (GTS). The GTS is the communications network operated by national meteorological and hydrological services (NMHS) and collaborating organisations for routine collection and dissemination of time- and operation-critical data and products. Relevant technical regulations are published in the Manual on the GTS (WMO-No. 386) . Technically, the GTS uses pre-arranged agreements to route files (e.g. the data and products) between Centres using the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and Secure FTP (SFTP). It has been the mainstay of operational data exchange in WMO for decades. It is robust and resilient but band-width constrained as it uses high-availability dedicated links and network clouds to ensure a guaranteed quality of service. In some circumstances, the Internet may be used as an underlying technology for components of the GTS (e.g. when acceptable levels of service and adequate security measures are provided in a cost-effective manner) - particularly for less time-critical requirements and for distribution of larger volumes of data.