This document provides a proposal for the establishment of a GCOS Surface Reference Network (GSRN). Reference quality observations are directly traceable to the International System of Units (SI) standards and include full documentation of all components of their uncertainty. Such observations respond to the need for monitoring the changes that occur in the climate and ensure greater confidence in the assessment of future climate change and variability. Such a network will also support timely political decisions around mitigation and adaptation. A GSRN will contribute to the improvement of the current climate observing system. However, benefits would accrue much more immediately, through improved observational understanding and better methods of observation leading to improvements in numerical weather prediction and disaster and emergency response systems.
GCOS Surface Reference Network (GSRN): Justification, requirements, siting and instrumentation options
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The principal benefits of a reference network are:
- well characterised time series that can be used with confidence at network sites;
- improved instrument performance that transfers down to other broader global regional and national networks;
- support and characterisation of wider networks;
- robust calibration/validation of satellite data;
- improved process understanding and model validation.
Initial implementation is aimed at six core atmospheric surface Essential Climate Variables (ECV): Air temperature, wind speed and direction, water vapour, pressure, precipitation and surface radiation budget components.
For the GSRN to fulfil its intended role of providing globally representative, high quality observations, critical attention will need to be given to the matters of station location, siting and quality of instrumentation, each of which are discussed in this document.
It is proposed that the GSRN be supported by the GCOS programme, relevant programmes at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM). The management of the implementation and operation of the GSRN will require the establishment of a Lead Centre. In the first phase of the implementation, the Lead Centre will
- develop a network based on existing reference quality monitoring stations;
- coordinate reference stations;
- ensure that all observations are of reference quality;
- establish common procedures and standards across the GSRN;
- certify stations as being of reference quality and contributing to the GSRN;
- establish systems to monitor station performance and perform Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC);
- ensure data is easily discoverable and freely and openly available to all; and
- develop a plan for the long-term operation and development of GSRN.
The next steps required for the implementation of a GSRN are the approval of the proposed GSRN by relevant WMO programmes, the GCOS programme and other sponsors, solicitation of offers to host and staff appropriately the proposed Lead Centre, and the selection of suitable sites for an initial GSRN.
Overall, the guiding principle should be to start small, by slowly building up the network and its capabilities in a manner that is sustainable and solicits and builds upon relevant input from all stakeholders.