Copernicus Joining Forces with WMO on GFCS

The Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) provides a basis for the structured and coherent framing of the science, data, operations and applications fundamental to transitioning to a climate smart and resilient society. It enables better-informed management of the risks of climate variability and change and adaptation to climate change. This is accomplished by developing, providing and incorporating science-based climate information into planning, policy and practice. The Framework addresses the critical elements required for effective coordination, co-design, dissemination and uptake of weather, climate and hydrological services. It places the decision context and information needs of people at the centre and champions interactive user engagement to foster trust and enable riskinformed decision-making. The GFCS is comprised of five foundational “pillars” across which investments and coordination at global, regional, and national levels underpin service delivery:

  • User interface platform,
  • Observations and monitoring,
  • Climate Services Information System (CSIS),
  • Research, modelling and prediction, and
  • Capacity development. 

WMO, whose 193 Member States and Territories are the custodians of the operational Earth observation and modelling infrastructure, is a coordinating partner in the implementation of the GFCS. Collaboration among other partners is essential in delivering on the Framework’s vision of improved resilience and development outcomes for vulnerable members of society. This article explores a few of the challenges in the implementation of the GFCS pillars and highlight existing and potential opportunities for collaboration between WMO, its Members, partners, and the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) to enhance and scale GFCS implementation. It also outlines a few issues for further consideration that require immediate attention.


User interface platform (UIP)

CopernicusThe decision context and information needs of users in climate-sensitive sectors lie at the heart of effective climate services. A successful climate service is provided not when the delivery reaches the last mile, but when the delivery is co-planned in the very first mile1. Information needs to be tailored to reach the right person in the right form at the right time. Tailoring requires multi-disciplinary science that duly considers the complexity of the systems within which climate information is produced and delivered; the contexts within which users work and use it; and the many factors driving users’ decision-making2.

The multiple interfaces of stakeholder interactions comprise the UIP. Partner organizations play important roles in mapping out the decision-contexts, information needs and facilitating co-design processes. Partners are also critical in the collection and sharing of observational and socio-economic data required to achieve impact oriented forecasts. WMO technical regulations outline standards to ensure a constant supply of quality-assured and quality-controlled observational data. Socio-economic data from the climate sensitive sectors similarly needs to be standardized and quality controlled to enable reliable and decision relevant climate services.

The climate service landscape is busy and complex with a variety of stakeholders. Despite excellent intentions of development programmes, recent research in Africa notes that the political economy and power relations in climate services production, along with the daily lived realities of vulnerable user communities, are yet to be fully explored in the design of climate service initiatives3.

Structures of governance – as arbiters and promoters of transparency, accountability, and thus potential trustworthiness of the climate services – are necessary4. National/Regional Frameworks for Climate Services (N/RFCS) offer a promising solution for climate service governance. NFCS can enable coordination, facilitate and strengthen collaboration among national institutions and other key stakeholders, such as the United Nations and international agencies, to improve the co-production, tailoring, delivery, and use of science-based climate services.

Thirty-six countries have or are in the process of developing their NFCS and ten would like to initiate the process. Development of RFCS will launch in 2020 through funding from the European Commission in the African, Caribbean, and Pacific regions. However, to maximize and better articulate the economic and social value potential of climate services, attention needs to be placed on the roles and responsibilities of the monitoring and evaluation process of all potential stakeholders5.


The role of C3S

C3S has developed an Evaluation and Quality Control function that supports gathering user requirements to promote and guide service evolution. There are opportunities to explore leveraging this feature to consolidate the user requirements gathered through the N/RFCS as part of GFCS implementation.

There are challenges in GFCS implementation related to the systematic collection of quality assured socioeconomic datasets in the GFCS priority areas and monitoring the socioeconomic impacts of climate service use. Lessons learned from proof-of-concepts conducted under C3S in Europe could prove useful in developing principles for how we compile, share and merge climate and socioeconomic impact data in designing climate services and monitor impacts6.


Observations and monitoring

Reliable meteorological and hydrological analyses and forecasts depend on a constant supply of qualityassured and quality-controlled global observational data. Gaps in observations in one area negatively impacts the quality of the forecast across the entire globe. Data, together with the systems and regulated processes by which they are measured, collected, compared, shared, processed and applied, are fundamental to WMO7

Since the early 1960s, WMO has coordinated the acquisition and international exchange of meteorological observations through the World Weather Watch (WWW) Programme. WWW is comprised of the following components:

  • Global Observing System (GOS), which coordinates the standardized collection and international exchange of meteorological and environmental observations worldwide in support of weather, climate and environmental services. 
  • Global Telecommunication System (GTS), the system that enables Members to share data and products with each other in real time in support of operational forecasting. 
  • The Global Data-Processing and Forecasting System (GDPFS) is organized as a three-level system: World Meteorological Centres (WMCs), Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres (RSMCs) and National Meteorological Centres (NMC) that provide quality-assured, processed data, analyses, and forecast products on a wide range of temporal and spatial scales. 

The evolution of data, technology and the scale of the present societal challenges related to our changing Earth system demanded dramatic changes in the governance and programmatic structures of WMO. The modalities of reform were agreed at the Eighteenth World Meteorological Congress (Cg-18) in June 2019.

The update of the Earth observation network will be accomplished through the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS). 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. WIGOS will consolidate all in-situ and space-based observing programmes of WMO, including the GOS, Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), World Hydrological Observing System (WHOS), Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) and Global Cryosphere Watch (GCW). The implementation of WIGOS will be scaled through development and operational implementation of the Global Basic Observing Network (GBON), with electronic metadata inventories for all observing platforms, along with quantitative tools to monitor their data delivery and data quality.

The update of the GTS will be accomplished through WMO Information System (WIS) Version 2.0. WIS built on and incorporated GTS, adding a data catalogue, data discovery portal and additional mechanisms for users to subscribe to and download data. WIS 2.0 will further improve data discovery and access, and participating centres will provide Web services that enhance user access and interaction with data. Cloud technologies will be encouraged among participating centres, which allow users to download aspects of interest in the datasets.

Cg-18 also endorsed the next evolution of the GDPFS8. The operational predictive capability will be integrated across multiple time and space scales from weather to climate and will address a broader spectrum of user needs. This “Seamless” approach will enable exchange and use of data from a variety of sources, including vulnerability and exposure data to facilitate impact-based forecasting and risk-based warnings across disciplines. Interoperability will require the development of common data formats for new technologies. The seamless approach will demand higher level of coordination for the integration and interaction of individual components under WMO auspices – WMC, RSMC, NMC and CSIS – and with external agencies and organizations.


The role of C3S

The C3S Climate Data Store offers insight into the implementation of the emerging cloud-based computing technology. It provides web-based access to, and interaction with, petabytes of existing climate datasets. The application code executes on a cloud infrastructure with high-speed access to massive volumes of data9. This platform could be leveraged in regions and by Members where cloud technologies are limited in practice and functionality. 


Climate Services Information System

Regional Climate Outlook ForumsCSIS is the “operational backbone" of the GFCS. CSIS is the principal mechanism through which information about climate across timescales – past, present and future – is archived, analysed, modelled, exchanged, delivered and co-designed for use. The system builds on knowledge generated from the WMO Commission for Climatology (CCL), GDPFS, and approaches developed through the WMO Climate Information and Prediction Services (CLIPS) project (1995-2015). 

CCL was established in 1929 “to provide world leadership in promoting expertise and international cooperation in climatology.”10 The Commission helped establish observing requirements for climate, the technical regulations for climate data exchange and climate data management systems, and led efforts in data rescue – all essential to enable CSIS.

CLIPS was instrumental in facilitating the use of WMO basic infrastructure to strengthen NMHSs capabilities in operationally generating and delivering up-to-date climate information and prediction products for climate services, especially in support of climate adaptation and risk management. It supported the development of global and regional systems architecture, mainly through WMO Global Producing Centres for Long Range Forecasts (GPCs-LRF), Regional Climate Centres (RCCs), and Regional Climate Outlook Forums (RCOFs). The GPC-LRFs, GPCs of Annual to Decadal Climate Prediction (GPCs-ADCP) and the RCCs constitute integral components of the GDPFS, which underpins the generation of climate information products by the NMHSs. There are currently 13 operational GPCs-LRFs, one Lead Centre on LRF Multi-Model Ensembles (MME), three operational GPCs-ADCP, one Lead Centre on ADCP, nine designated RCCs and three RCC- Networks, along with twenty RCOFs actively supported by WMO and regularly convened by Members. 


The role of C3S

At present, regional and national entities have access to global products, but require support in identifying the most robust signals and assessing information reliability and the likely future states of the climate. There is a role for enhanced collaboration between WMO and C3S in CSIS implementation at the regional and national scales. Supporting Members in evaluating multiple sources of information and to identify which products offer good skill for the parameters of interest and ensuring regional coherence in dealing with common climate drivers is an ongoing operational requirement. The RCOFs provide a useful venue for this exchange at the regional level, with technical support provided by the concerned RCCs. At the national level C3S, WMO RCC and NMHS collaboration could leverage National Climate Outlook Forums (NCOFs) and the “Climate Services Toolkit”11 to enhancing physical access to a wide number of countries to CSIS related climate data, tools and products, e.g. through EUMETCAST or other media.

One area of successful collaboration between WMO and C3S on GFCS implementation is data rescue. The WMO community has fostered data rescue activities worldwide through the implementation of the GFCS International Data Rescue Portal (I-DARE)12. I-DARE provides guidance and support for national data rescue over data sparse areas, activities that have scaled up through a partnership with the Copernicus Data Rescue Service (DRS). The goal is to facilitate the recovery of meteorological observations worldwide by complementing the GFCS/I-DARE portal to discover and register either DARE projects, individual datasets or provide new tools to scan data sources, digitize observations and quality control entries.


Research, modelling and prediction 

This pillar fosters research towards continually improving the scientific basis of climate information, and provides an evidence base for determining the physical basis for the nature and impacts of climate change and variability and for evaluating the costeffectiveness of using climate information. GFCS implementation has been advanced substantially through the joint WMO/UNESCO-IOC/International Science Council World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), which has made breakthrough contributions to advancing climate science over the last four decades. 

Gaps in GFCS implementation include impactorientated research in climate sensitive sectors – for example, health assessments on heat thresholds. Large gaps also remain in the core technical and scientific capabilities required in model development to meet the new agendas of seamlessness across weather, climate and Earth system science, of high resolution, fully coupled, Earth system modelling, and the advent of exascale computing13. Improving skill for subseasonal to seasonal time scales as well as annual to decadal forecasts and projections of long-term future climates, including human impacts, is an ongoing requirement for climate-informed decision-making. Enhanced and sustained linkages between Members, RCCs and research communities is anticipated to expedite the application of research advances in operational weather and climate services. Linkages with the ECMWF through C3S could be useful in this regard. 


Capacity development

The GFCS aims to develop the capacity of countries to generate, deliver and apply climate services, and recognizes that all aspects of its foundational pillars need an explicit focus on capacity development. The GFCS Implementation Plan outlines the following capacity development areas: governance, management, human resources development, education and training, leadership, partnership creation, science communication, service delivery, resource mobilization and infrastructure14. Key to the effective climate services is the implementation of WMO competency framework15 for the provision of climate services that ensures standardization of service quality and delivery. WMO has long promoted the “twinning” of NMHSs who have advanced their climate services implementation with those wishing to do the same. WMO and C3S collaboration could expand twinning arrangements to better enable NMHSs: 

  • accessing data, products and tools already available from WMO centres and C3S, and interpreting them into services for stakeholders in their countries
  • to prepare action plans for the NFCS for increased capacity to generate relevant data, products and services. 

Many of the advanced NMHSs that would be (and in many cases already are) engaged in these twinning arrangements are from Europe.

C3S has access to experts to develop the content for training, as does WMO through its technical commissions and programmes. WMO can support delivery of training through its network and regional training centres, whilst C3S can focus on the development of the training material and concepts, based on the wealth of data, tools and services. C3S can also contribute resource persons for climate services training activities as well as training the trainers activities. The WMO Global Campus can serve as a basis for coordination.



C3S’s unfettered access to data, tools, and services has enabled an emerging climate services market, which does not necessarily revolve around NMHSs. This presents a number of important considerations for WMO Members and the community at large. Decisions taken at Cg-18 outline a path forward.

The C3S AGRHYMET CaseCongress established an open consultative platform “Partnership and innovation for the next generation of weather and climate intelligence” (Resolution 79) and the “Geneva Declaration 2019: Building Community for Weather, Climate, and Water Actions” (Resolution 80). Both recognize the opportunities for all stakeholders and the broader user community that result from a closer collaboration among public, private and academic sectors. The decisions support the evolving role of WMO as a facilitator in establishing and expanding partnerships among stakeholders, from public, private and academic sectors that will significantly improve the availability of highquality weather, climate, water and other related environmental information and services. They also recognize the role of WMO in the development and promulgation of international standards to ensure the quality, interoperability and fit-for-purpose information and services, and in promoting the adherence by all stakeholders to those standards.

Furthermore, the decision on “Data Policies and Practices Supporting Members” (Resolution 56) recognizes the WMO cascading data processing and forecasting system, emerging data and supply chain decisions, and the need to define national mandates and policies in relation to weather, climate and water data and services. It also highlights the need to reimagine what high-impact services might look like. It supports expanding the concept of impactbased services into an integrated services approach, where publicly-funded-data is freely accessible and integrated with data from sector-based sources to develop more context-relevant and actionable services that benefit users.

While a vast quantity of GFCS-relevant climate data is available worldwide, their large heterogeneity in terms of structure and quality control inhibit their use. C3S, on the other hand, offers a vehicle to operationalize WMO resolutions that enhance the free and unrestricted exchange of meteorological, hydrological and climatological data and products and enable access to the international infrastructure and facilities coordinated by WMO through its programmes. However, pursuit of this approach would require the recognition of the role NMHSs play in monitoring, understanding and predicting weather, climate and water forecasts and services.

C3S and Member partnership arrangements should acknowledge that outside Europe, C3S relies heavily on satellite data and does not offer climate services at the local spatial scale required to support decisionmaking. National data is critical for C3S to be relevant in a number of contexts. Partnership agreements should acknowledge this contribution and ensure joint branding in services to better ensure national ownership as well as long-term sustainability.

It is also essential to recognize that the implementation of past Congress resolutions related to the unrestricted exchange of GFCS-relevant data remains inadequate . A critical examination of the root causes should serve as the basis to strategize an effective approach to support cultural change. Possible solutions include supporting Members in developing national legislation that recognize NMHS roles and responsibilities in delivering on resilience and adaption priorities and contributing to a number of internationally agreed global goals and frameworks. This could include joint branding and marking on all WMO (Member) data used to develop services. Engaging social scientists in the change process could help in framing and understanding the roles and responsibilities and ensure documentation of the evidence base required for systemic cultural change.

Cg-18 gave clear directions on the need to review and update WMO data policies to take into consideration the current dynamics of the weather and climate enterprise with an ever growing role and engagement of private and academic sectors. Such a review is envisaged to inform the decisions of the next World Meteorological Congress extraordinary session in 2021.


GFCS Future outlook

Following the midterm review of the GFCS in 2017, WMO is strengthening partnerships to position the GFCS to structure the science, data and operations coherently to meet the climate crisis and the internationallyagreed goals set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, The New Urban Agenda of Habitat III, and many more. WMO looks forward to working with Members and partners like ECMWF/C3S to ensure the best available science meets the demands of those most in need in a format that enables action. 



1 Vogel, C. et al (in press). Climate Services in Africa: Re-imagining an inclusive, robust and sustainable service. Climate Services.

2 Allis, E. et al. 2019: The Future of Climate Services. WMO Bulletin, 68(1).

3 Vogel, C. et al (in press). ibid.

4 Kruczkiewicz A, Hansen J, Sayeed S, Furlow J, Rose A, Dinh D. 2018. Review of Climate Services Governance Structures: Case Studies from Mali, Jamaica, and India. CCAFS Working Paper no. 236. Wageningen, Netherlands: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Available online at:

5 World Meteorological Organization. 2011. Valuing Weather and Climate: Economic Assessment of Meteorological and Hydrological Services. WMO-No. 1153. Geneva, Switzerland.

6 Allis, E. et al. 2019: ibid.

7 Barrell, Sue. 2019: Data and Systems Perspective on Constituent Body Reform. WMO Bulletin, 68(1).

8 WMO. Congress Eighteenth Session. Geneva, Switzerland: World Meteorological Organization, 2019.

9 Wardle, J. and Tandy, J. 2019: Data sharing for Sustainable Development: the WMO Information System (WIS) 2.0. WMO Bulletin, 68(1).

10 CCL was established under the auspices of the International Meteorological Organization (IMO). World Meteorological Organization (WMO) was incorporated in 1950 as a Specialized Agency of the United Nations, and the successor to IMO and continued the work of CCL.

11 WMO, 2019. Climate Services Toolkit (Website) Retrieved October 22, 2019.

12 GFCS International Data Rescue Portal (I-DARE) 

13 Slingo, J. 2019: Review of the World Climate Research Programme: Setting the Agenda for 21st Century Climate Research, WMO Bulletin, 68(1).

14 WMO. Implementation Plan of the Global Framework for Climate Services. Geneva, Switzerland: World Meteorological Organization, 2014.



Erica Allis, WMO Secretariat

Jean-Nöel Thépaut, European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Reading, UK

Carlo Buontempo, ECMWF

Rupa Kumar Kolli, International CLIVAR Monsoon Project Office, Pune, India

Wilfran Moufouma Okia, WMO Secretariat

Berit Arheimer, Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute

Abdu Ali, Centre Régional AGRHYMET, Niger

Joni Dehaspe, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Germany

Christian Birkel, University of Costa Rica

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