Overview of the Global Cryosphere Watch
The World Meteorological Organization's Global Cryosphere Watch (GCW)1 is an international mechanism for supporting all key cryospheric in-situ and remote sensing observations. To meet the needs of WMO Members and partners in delivering services to users, the media, public, decision and policy makers, GCW provides authoritative, clear, and useable data, information, and analyses on the past, current and future state of the cryosphere. GCW includes observation, monitoring, assessment, product development, prediction, and research. It provides the framework for reliable, comprehensive, sustained observing of the cryosphere through a coordinated and integrated approach on national to global scales to deliver quality-assured global and regional products and services. GCW organizes analyses and assessments of the cryosphere to support science, decision-making and environmental policy. To meet these objectives, GCW implementation encompasses:
- Requirements: Meet evolving cryospheric observing requirements of WMO Members, partners, and the scientific community, by contributing to the WMO Rolling Review of Requirements (RRR) process;
- Integration: Provide a framework to assess the state of the cryosphere and its interactions within the Earth System;
- Standardization: Enhance the quality of observational data by improving observing standards and best practices for the measurement of essential cryospheric variables;
- Access: Improve exchange of, access to, and utilization of observations and products from WMO observing systems and those of its partners;
- Coordination: Foster research and development activities and coherent planning for future observing systems and global observing network optimization.
The observing component of GCW is a component of the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS). Through WIGOS and the WMO Information System (WIS), GCW will provide a fundamental contribution to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). GCW will organize analyses and assessments of the cryosphere to support science, decision-making, environmental policy and services through, inter alia, its foundational support to the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS).
What specifically is GCW doing?
GCW is fulfilling its objectives through a number of specific activities. Many build on existing information, observations, and programs. All are done in consultation with the community of cryospheric scientists and organizations. GCW is
- developing a network of surface observations called "CryoNet", which builds on existing networks;
- developing measurement guidelines and best practices;
- refining observational requirements for the WMO Rolling Review of Requirements;
- contributing to WMO's space-based capabilities database (with the Polar Space Task Group);
- engaging in, and supporting, intercomparison of products, particularly satellite products;
- formulating a set of best practices for product intercomparisons;
- creating detailed inventories of satellite products to succinctly describe their maturity and applicability;
- assessing snow cover products through the GCW Snow Watch project;
- creating unique products, e.g., the SWE Tracker, in collaboration with partners;
- engaging in historical data rescue (e.g., snow depth);
- building a cryosphere glossary;
- developing international training and outreach materials;
- providing up-to-date information on the state of the cryosphere through the GCW website;
- providing access to data through a robust catalogue, or portal, which is interoperable with other data centers;
- co-sponsoring workshops.
See the Current Projects page for more information on some of the above activities.
A Brief History
In 2007, the 15th World Meteorological Congress welcomed a proposal of Canada that WMO would create a Global Cryosphere Watch, which would be an important component of the International Polar Year 2007-2008 (IPY) legacy, and requested the WMO Inter-commission Task Group on IPY to establish an ad-hoc expert group to explore the possibility of such a global system and prepare recommendations for its development. In 2011, the 16th World Meteorological Congress approved the Global Cryosphere Watch (GCW) Implementation Strategy. The First GCW Implementation Workshop in 2011, the first CryoNet Workshop in 2012, and the first GCW Snow Watch workshop in early 2013 laid the groundwork for the implementation of GCW, began the definition of the surface-based network, and initiated product intercomparisons.
In 2015, the 17th World Meteorological Congress decided to mainstream and implement GCW in WMO Programmes as a cross-cutting activity and requested that the Secretary-General ensure, to the extent possible within available resources, management of, and provide support to, the implementation of GCW. Congress agreed that the GCW Implementation Plan should be the guiding document for the implementation of the GCW. Congress also agreed that an immediate priority for GCW is to establish CryoNet, which is one of the four WIGOS component observing systems.
1"WMO Global Cryosphere Watch" in a few other languages: Veille mondiale de la cryosphère relevant de l'OMM, Vigilancia Global de la Criósfera de la OMM, (WMO) المراقبة العالمية للغلاف الجليدي التابعة للمنظمة, WMO全球冰雪圈观察, Глобальная служба криосферы ВМО