GEOSS is Starting to Make a Difference

The urgency of co-ordinated Earth observation was highlighted by delegates at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, 2002.

A year later, the meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialised countries (the G8) in Evian, France, set priorities for Earth observation. These meetings recognised that international collaboration is essential if Earth observation is to support decision making in an environmentally stressed world. Consequently, the first Earth Observation Summit convened in Washington, DC in July 2003. The meeting agreed to establish the ad hoc intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations with its first task drafting a 10-year implementation plan.

Membership of the Group on Earth Observation. Freen indicates the 76 nations that are members of GEOSS or participating.

The implementation plan was approved and the GEO authorised to carry it out in February 2005 in Brussels. The G8 supported the establishment of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) in the Gleneagles Plan of Action released in July 2005.

So what is in the plan? GEO is a voluntary partnership of governments and international organisations. It has no ability to coerce members into any action, rather, GEOSS supplies a framework where partners can develop new projects and co-ordinate strategies and investments.

The plan defines a vision statement for GEOSS, including purpose, scope, and anticipated benefits. At the first meeting of the plenary council, GEO-1, established four committees: architecture and data, science and technology, and user interface and capacity building. It also established a working group for tsunami activities. GEO-1 was held in the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami, so ways to combat the effects of tsunamis were a priority.

A common infrastructure allows users to access services available through GEOSS, consisting of an internet portal, a clearinghouse, components and services registry, and a standards registry. The clearinghouse drives the entire system, connects directly to components and services, collects and searches information, and issues data and services to the user via the portal.

The components and services registry is like to a library catalogue. The governments and organisations that contribute components and services to the system provide details about their contribution, assisting the clearinghouse, and the user, to identify resources of interest.

The standards and interoperability registry provides a framework within which partners can develop new projects. It is vital to the ability of GEOSS to function as a true system of systems and provide integrated information and services.

The implementation plan recognizes the importance of sharing data to achieve GEOSS's vision. If the plan is to succeed, full and open exchange of data, metadata and products is essential. It also recognises the limitations imposed by national policies and legislation.

The plan argues for sharing based on minimum time delay and minimum cost, encouraging reproduction for research and education.

It accepts that other technologies will have a part in implementing its aims. Satellite navigation systems, geoinformation, spatial data management and data handling systems will be essential

With everything in place, GEO has been moving to apply specific measures aimed at making a difference. For instance, a recent joint initiative with the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs has established the necessary mechanisms to enable GEO members to authorise access to the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters. This will accelerate responses to requests for data in the event of a disaster.

Its range may be expanded to pre-event tasking. This would happen when events can be effectively forecast to justify the action – for example with wild fires, floods, coastal disasters, and volcanic eruptions. The expanded scope includes training of local users in affected areas, particularly in developing countries.

GEO already makes a prominent contribution to disaster relief through its collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union. This aims to promote the implementation of international standards for all-media public warnings for disaster and emergency situations. An agreement between ITU and the GEO secretariat should strengthen this co-operation. Collaboration between the two organisations will provide for the allocation and protection of the devoted radio frequencies used by remote sensing satellites and Earth-based monitors to collect data on the global environment.

restoration companies in orlando Numerous projects are ongoing that will lead to specific data products.