Essential Climate Variables

Essential Climate Variables

An ECV is a physical, chemical or biological variable or a group of linked variables that critically contributes to the characterization of Earth’ s climate.

ECV datasets provide the empirical evidence needed to understand and predict the evolution of climate, to guide mitigation and adaptation measures, to assess risks and enable attribution of climate events to underlying causes, and to underpin climate services.They are required to support the work of the UNFCCC and the IPCC.

ECVs are identified based on the following criteria:

  • Relevance: The variable is critical for characterizing the climate system and its changes.
  • Feasibility: Observing or deriving the variable on a global scale is technically feasible using proven, scientifically understood methods.
  • Cost effectiveness: Generating and archiving data on the variable is affordable, mainly relying on coordinated observing systems using proven technology, taking advantage where possible of historical datasets.

ECVs are observed according to the GCOS Climate Monitoring Principles.

The Global Observing Systems Information Center (GOSIC)  provides further background, definitions, requirements, network information and data sources for the ECVs. It is maintained by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. GCOS Program at NCEI on behalf of the global observing community.

The ECV inventory of the  joint Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS)/ Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites (CGMS) working group on climate (WGClimate) provides data of ECVs measured from space.

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