Three jewels shine particularly brightly in the crown of the World Weather Watch: the Global Observing System (GOS), the Global Telecommunication System (GTS) and the Global Data-processing and Forecasting System (GDPFS). As envisaged in the original, visionary plan for the World Weather Watch, these individual components deliver their achievements not in isolation but through their connection from end-to-end and through the strong user requirements process that underpins them. The combined achievement is far greater than the sum of the parts, and no single component would be able to deliver the intended benefits on its own. However, Global Observing System is arguably unique in being the foundation on which the others stand: it provides the essential observations subsequently disseminated through the Global Telecommunication System and assimilated and processed into forecasting products through the Global Data-processing and Forecasting System.
The Global Observing System is an extremely complex undertaking, and it is perhaps one of the most ambitious and successful instances of international collaboration of the last 60 years. It consists of a multitude of individual surface- and space-based observing systems owned and operated by a plethora of national and international agencies with different funding lines, allegiances, overall priorities and management processes. And yet the overall requirements and reporting practices are almost universally adopted.
Through the combination of the Global Observing System and Global Telecommunication System, billions of observations are obtained and exchanged in real time between WMO Members and other partners every single day. Without the Global Observing System and Global Telecommunication System, not a single WMO Member would be able to serve the weather needs of its citizens as well as they do today.
In spite of the technological proficiency of modern society, our dependence on weather has increased rather than decreased over the last five decades. This is due to a combination of factors, including an exponential growth in travel and transportation by air and sea, a larger than ever part of the population living along the coastlines of the world and in other vulnerable areas such as flood plains, and increased reliance of intensive farming methods to feed growing populations, etc. The increasing demand for and dependence on weather information, as well as the emergence of new observational capabilities, have forced Global Observing System since its inception to constantly evolve, and it will need to continue to do so in the future.
The components of the Global Observing System belong to the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of WMO Members, to other national and international agencies such as space agencies or to private entities. The role of WMO is to coordinate and guide the Global Observing System, both in its every day operations and in its strategic evolution.
The main long-term objectives of the Global Observing System are:
- To improve and optimize global systems for observing the state of the atmosphere and the ocean surface to meet the requirements, in the most effective and efficient manner, for the preparation of increasingly accurate weather analyses, forecasts and warnings, and for climate and environmental monitoring activities carried out under programmes of WMO and other relevant international organizations;
- To provide for the necessary standardization of observing techniques and practices, including the planning of networks on a regional basis to meet the requirements of the users with respect to quality, spatial and temporal resolution and long-term stability.
Today, the Global Observing System is one of the key component observing system of the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS).