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South Africa hosts first national GCOS science day

By Dr Juliet Hermes, SAEON and Johan Stander, South African Weather Service
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The GCOS vision is to be an integrated global system of ground-based, airborne and space-based systems, providing comprehensive information about the global climate system (Image courtesy of GCOS)


Dr Tommy Bornman, Manager of SAEON’s Elwandle Node, tells delegates more about South Africa’s coastal and ocean observing systems


Dr Bruce Hewitson from the University of Cape Town discusses the challenges encountered in developing information on regional climate change and variability for Southern Africa


Dr Linda Makuleni, CEO of the South African Weather Service and the SA focal point to the WMO (left), receives a certificate from Carolin Richter, Director of the GCOS Secretariat, for SA's continued excellent GCOS-related remote sensing observations (Picture: Johan Stander)

On Monday, 28 September, participants from around the world, but in particular from South Africa and the Meteorological Association of Southern Africa, gathered in Cape Town for the first national science day of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS).

The delegates met to discuss long-term observations of essential climate variables in the atmosphere, terrestrial and marine systems, as well as their integration into comprehensive climate models.

The science day was opened by Dr Linda Makuleni, CEO of the South African Weather Service (SAWS), who welcomed all participants.

Dr Amos Makarau, president of the WMO (World Meteorological Organisation) Africa Regional Association subsequently addressed the meeting and underlined the importance of partnerships in developing the national WMO Integrated Global Observing System. He stressed that partnerships were extremely important within GCOS and said the growing partnership between SAEON and the SAWS would benefit the region and its communities.

Monitoring the global climate

The event programme featured presentations from leading foreign and South African climate scientists (atmospheric, terrestrial and oceanographic), as well as open-discussion sessions. The day concluded with a debate on the current El Niño and the suggestion that the SAWS hosts a workshop bringing together different South African experts to address the impacts of this El Niño event, how to observe them and how best to disseminate this information.

Following the debate, SAEON hosted the GCOS steering committee meeting, with SAWS providing a field trip to the Global Atmospheric Watch Station at Cape Point. Presentations were given by the different disciplines’ climate observing panels of GCOS and discussions were held around the current essential climate variables.

Dr Linda Makuleni gave a presentation on the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) and was awarded a certificate for South Africa’s contribution to the global network of atmospheric stations. Dr Juliet Hermes, Manager of the SAEON Egagasini Node for Marine Offshore Systems, is a representative on the steering committee as an oceanographic expert and can be contacted for more information.

More about GCOS

GCOS is intended to be a long-term, user-driven, operational system capable of providing the comprehensive observations required for:

  • monitoring the climate system;
  • detecting and attributing climate change;
  • assessing impacts of, and supporting adaptation to, climate variability and change;
  • application to national economic development, and
  • research to improve understanding, modelling and prediction of the climate system.


GCOS addresses the total climate system including physical, chemical and biological properties, and atmospheric, oceanic, terrestrial, hydrologic and cryospheric components. GCOS is responsible, within the United Nations framework, for ensuring a sustained, long-term, reliable system for monitoring the global climate. An important aspect of this mission is the definition of essential climate variables (ECVs), which are critical to our understanding of the climate.

Vote of thanks

The GCOS science day was sponsored by the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) in collaboration with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), the South African Weather Service (SAWS) and the Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science (ACCESS), as well as the GCOS Steering Committee.


Participants from around the world gathered in Cape Town for the first national GCOS science day to discuss long-term observations of essential climate variables (Picture courtesy of GCOS)

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