Climate observations are essential for understanding the complexities of the global climate system; indeed virtually all breakthroughs that have been made in understanding climate have come from observations. Observations provide critical benchmarks for testing and further developing our predictive capability through models. While the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR5) states that the human influence on the climate system is clear, it also notes that there are gaps in the current global climate observing system on which these statements are based. There are also increasing needs for more detailed climate observations resulting from adaption planning to reduce risks from climate change and variability. This is why it is crucial to make further progress towards achieving a fully implemented, sustainable, global observing system for climate. GCOS has been responsible since 1992 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for ensuring a sustained, long-term and reliable system for monitoring the global climate. An important aspect of this is the definition of Essential Climate Variables (ECVs), which are critical to our understanding of the climate and that support the work of the UNFCCC and the IPCC, as well as many other international organisations and programmes.
The conference Global Climate Observation: the Road to the Future is being held to allow producers and users of climate observations and other stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the current monitoring of the Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) and to highlight possible new areas for ECVs. These discussions provide a key input into the new GCOS Implementation Plan that is now being prepared for UNFCC in 2016. The conference Global Climate Observation: the Road to the Future was held from 2-4 March 2016 at the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam.