With so many international groups and activities whose goal is to improve the climate observing systems, it is not unreasonable to ask what we can do by creating yet another observing system enhancement initiative. There’s GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems), GCOS (Global Climate Observing System), GOOS (Global Ocean Observing System), GTOS (Global Terrestrial Observing System), GTN-P (Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost), and more. Then there’s IGOS, the Integrated Global Observing Strategy, and its themes. With GEO/GEOSS being the “system of systems”, the current thinking is that the IGOS themes will feed into GEOSS; i.e., GEOSS should build on the Themes.
Why do we need a cryosphere theme? It’s really very simple: different components of the cryosphere are covered by the various G*OS’s, but none of them can treat the cryosphere as a whole, and therefore do not address the synergy between observations and modeling relevant to cryospheric observations and processes. That’s what we need to do, and it is a formidable task.