The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Executive Council has endorsed plans for a new Global Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Infrastructure to fill critical information gaps and support action to reduce heat-trapping gases.
The Executive Council seeks to build on WMO’s experience in coordinating international collaboration in weather prediction and climate analysis and on long-standing activities in greenhouse gas monitoring, research and provision of related services under the auspices of the Global Atmosphere Watch established in 1989 and its Integrated Global Greenhouse Gas Information System (IG3IS).
According to the resolution, WMO would coordinate efforts within a collaborative international framework to leverage all existing greenhouse gas monitoring capabilities – space-based and surface-based observing systems, all relevant modeling and data assimilation capabilities – in an integrated, operational framework.
Many of the existing national and international activities dealing with greenhouse gases are supported mainly by the research community. At present, there is no comprehensive, timely international exchange of surface and space-based greenhouse gas observations or modeling products.
The Executive Council will now seek further approval of this initiative at the World Meteorological Congress in May 2023.
Prof. Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general, said, “We know from our measurements that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are at a record high. The increase in CO2 levels from 2020 to 2021 was higher than the average growth rate over the past decade and methane saw the biggest year-on-year jump since measurements started.
“But there are still uncertainties, especially regarding the role in the carbon cycle of the ocean, the land biosphere and the permafrost areas,” said Prof. Taalas. “We therefore need to undertake greenhouse gas monitoring within an integrated Earth system framework in order to be able to account for natural sources and sinks, both as they currently operate and as they will change as a result of a changing climate. This will provide vital information and support for implementation of the Paris Agreement.”
Dr Lars Peter Riishojgaard, deputy director of the WMO’s infrastructure department, said, “WMO’s decision to bring its experience and expertise in the coordination of numerical weather prediction and climate analysis to bear on a generational challenge like climate change mitigation will be seen as a historic step.
“There is very strong support from the science community and private sector for the concept of the global greenhouse gas monitoring infrastructure. WMO has been contacted by both philanthropies and venture capitalists who are seeking opportunities to catalyze a major global extension of greenhouse gas monitoring capabilities, and by a variety of entities involved in the trading of carbon offsets who are looking at the top-down monitoring approach as a way to stabilize the carbon trading market by helping to provide a robust and realistic assessment of impact of offsetting.”
The Executive Council resolution was informed by the outcomes of a January 2023 international symposium that brought together more than 170 experts from research and operational communities, space agencies, meteorological services, the ocean and climate observing communities, academia and UN partners.
The concept of the new monitoring infrastructure envisages a top-down approach to the flux evaluation that builds on existing capabilities in surface- and space-based observations and modeling and ensures the timely exchange of all observations and data.
Global coordination efforts of the type needed for the development of this infrastructure have proved successful in weather prediction and climate monitoring and are embodied by the WMO’s 60-year-old World Weather Watch and its acclaimed Global Atmosphere Watch.
In its initial configuration, it is envisaged that the Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Infrastructure will consist of four main components:
- A comprehensive, sustained, global set of surface-based and satellite-based observations of CO2, CH4 and N2O concentrations, total column amounts, partial column amounts, vertical profiles and fluxes, and of supporting meteorological, oceanic and terrestrial variables, internationally exchanged as rapidly as possible, pending capabilities and agreements with the system operators;
- Prior estimates of the GHG emissions based on activity data and process-based models;
- A set of global high-resolution Earth system models representing GHG cycles;
- Associated with the models, data assimilation systems that optimally combine the observations with model calculations to generate products of higher accuracy.
The infrastructure will produce gridded net monthly fluxes of CO2, CH4 and N2O at the special resolution of 100km by 100km with minimum possible delay. These outputs can drive multiple applications from contribution to the global stock take to assessment of the fluxes from individual facilities or landscapes.
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