To know what is happening with global climate, researchers must be able to determine exactly what has happened in the past, which requires good data taken at the same place over a period of several decades. Global monitoring is a collective term used in relation to the measurement of a wide variety of atmospheric and surface properties on a global or regional scale at frequent intervals.
The monitoring of the climate and related variables on global and regional scales is essential if correct analyses of what has happened, and what is happening, to the atmospheric climate are to be made. For example, it is often mentioned, especially by the media, that the climate is getting warmer, or cooler, or drier, or wetter, or more humid, or windier, and so on. What the true situation is, however, cannot be determined without rigorous and ongoing collection and examination of data. For example, are the polar ice areas increasing or deceasing, and are glaciers advancing or retreating? Are these trends different from what happened a few decades ago? The correct monitoring of the global climate and related variables is clearly necessary to advance our knowledge of the true situation.
Temperature and other atmospheric observations have been made in many parts of the world for more than a century, and in some places for more than two hundred years. Initially these observations were made by single entities, but during the last hundred years, particularly during the last fifty years, there has been an effort to centralize and consolidate these data.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and its forerunner, the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), have, for more than one hundred years, been at the forefront of organizing research on and monitoring the world's climate. In particular, since 1992 the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) has supported this research according to several key principles: operation of historically uninterrupted stations and observing systems should be maintained; high priority for additional observations should be focused on data-poor regions, poorly observed parameters, and regions sensitive to change; and operators of satellite systems for monitoring climate need to sample the Earth system in such a way that climaterelevant (diurnal, seasonal, and long-term interannual) changes can be resolved.
A good example of "regional monitoring" is the South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project (SPSLCMP), which was developed in 1991 as the Australian government's response to concerns raised by member countries of the South Pacific Forum over the potential impacts of humaninduced global warming on climate and sea levels in the Pacific region. The first three phases of the project established a network of twelve highresolution Sea Level Fine Resolution Acoustic Measuring Equipment (SEAFRAME) sea-level and climate-monitoring stations throughout the Pacific.
Another example of "regional monitoring" is the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) of the National Weather Service (part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA). The CPC collects and produces daily and monthly data, time series, and maps for various climate parameters, such as precipitation, temperature, snow cover, and degree days for the United States, the Pacific islands, and other parts of the world. The CPC also compiles data on historical and current atmospheric and oceanic conditions, the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Index, and other climate patterns, such as the North Atlantic and Pacific Decadal Oscillations, as well as stratospheric ozone and temperatures.
A significant global center for compiling temperature and other climate data sets is the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. Some of the data produced are available online, and other sets are available on request. CRU endeavors to update the majority of the data pages at timely intervals. Data sets are available in the following categories: temperature, precipitation, atmospheric pressure and circulation indices, climate indices for the United Kingdom, data for the Mediterranean and alpine areas, and high-resolution gridded data sets.
A good example of a "global center" is the World Data Center (WDC) system, which was created to archive and distribute data collected from the observational programs of the 1957-1958 International Geophysical Year (IGY). Originally established in the United States, Europe, Russia, and Japan, the WDCsystem has since expanded to fifty-two centers in twelve countries. Its holdings include a wide range of solar, geophysical, environmental, and human dimensions data. TheWDCis maintained by Model and Data (M&D), which is hosted at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, located in Germany.
In terms of climate change, the monitoring of the climate is extremely important. A number of internationally recognized groups collect, analyze, and publish--mainly through Web sites--climate and other data for various areas of the world, including the globe as a whole, the land as a whole, the ocean as a whole, and regions such as the tropics and polar areas. In addition to the climate variables, a wide variety of other variables are monitored on a global or regional scale, such as the extent of sea ice, sea surface temperatures, carbon dioxide, and methane. All of these values, when correctly analyzed, provide important indicators of what changes have occurred during the past (weeks to many decades) in the broader atmospheric environment. Such information is essential if correct answers to questions relating to the changing climate are to be obtained.
1) Kininmonth, William. Climate Change: A Natural Hazard. Brentwood, Essex, England: Multiscience, 2004.
2) Singer, S. Fred, and Dennis T. Avery. Unstoppable Global Warming: Every Fifteen Hundred Years. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008.
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