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The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) was founded to globally coordinate climate observation and thereby to provide users with the data and information needed to address climate-related concerns. In Switzerland, GCOS is implemented by a variety of national partner institutions coordinated by the Swiss GCOS Office at MeteoSwiss.

High quality, systematic climate observation builds the foundation to estimate the extent and rate of climate change and to infer climate trends. Such knowledge is crucial for informed decision making concerning the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change.

The purpose of the Global Climate Observing System – or GCOS in short - is to ensure that the necessary climate relevant observations and information are systematically collected and provided to all potential users.

GCOS is an international programme (see box below), but to be put into practice, its principles need to be applied also on a national level. In Switzerland, this is fulfilled within the framework of GCOS Switzerland – the Swiss climate observing system.

GCOS Switzerland - Measure locally, understand globally

Climate observation has a long-standing tradition in Switzerland. The longest lasting climate observation series dates back to 1808, when scientists in Geneva first started collecting phenological data on the timing of the chestnut bud burst. Since then, the number of systematically monitored climate variables has increased steadily, adding observational data from the terrestrial and atmospheric domain.

These long and continuous time-series lay the groundwork for the implementation of GCOS in Switzerland. Today, within the framework of GCOS Switzerland, high quality data on 33 Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) are continuously collected, processed and made publically available (see also: National Climate Observing System).

But next to climate observations, quality control, data storage and data distribution are equally  important. Therefore, GCOS Switzerland also includes six international calibration and data centers operated by Swiss institutions. 

The data gathered in the framework of GCOS Switzerland are widely used. As an example, they help to understand pressing climate-related concerns such as the continuous melting of glaciers, and they also contribute to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In addition, Swiss GCOS data are the basis for user-tailored climate services and thereby support the work of the National Center for Climate Services (NCCS). 

With its local measurements, international data and calibration centres, GCOS Switzerland adds an important puzzle piece to the understanding of the global climate system.

GCOS Switzerland – a joint effort

The systematic observation of ECVs and the operation of international data and calibration centres in Switzerland is facilitated by the common effort of 28 National Partner Institutions.

The Swiss GCOS Office - seated at the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology MeteoSwiss - coordinates climate observation in Switzerland in support of these National Partner Institutions. The Swiss GCOS Office was formally established at MeteoSwiss in 2006, following the Federal Council’s dispatch concerning the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol (see also: Swiss GCOS Office).

In carrying out its coordination activities, the Swiss GCOS Office is guided by an independent GCOS Switzerland Steering Committee.  

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