The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) was established in 1992 at the Second World Climate Conference to ensure that the observations and information needed to address climate-related issues are collected and made available to potential users. It is co-sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, UNEP, and the International Council for Science.
GCOS aims to guide, coordinate, and improve an international network of data collecting entities, data centers, and analysis centers. It also aims to ensure that the observations and information produced by this network are recognized as essential public goods and readily available to the public.GCOS developed the concept of Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) to characterize a “physical, chemical or biological variable or a group of linked variables that critically contributes to the characterization of Earth’s climate.” ECVs are identified not only for their relevance, but also for the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of their widespread observation. The ECV Data Access Matrix provides background information, requirements, and links to available data sources for each of the ECVs.