Group on Earth Observations

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The Group on Earth Observations (or GEO) coordinates international efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). It links existing and planned Earth observation systems and supports the development of new ones in cases of perceived gaps in the supply of environment-related information. It aims to construct a global public infrastructure for Earth observations consisting in a flexible and distributed network of systems and content providers.


Common Earth observation instruments include ocean buoys, meteorological stations and balloons, seismic and Global Positioning System (GPS) stations, remote-sensing satellites, computerized forecasting models and early warning systems. These instruments are used to measure and monitor specific aspects of Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems.

To be useful, the raw data collected must be processed, archived, interpreted, and made available via easy-to-use channels in the form of information comprehensible not only by remote sensing experts. Earth observations are vital for policymaking and assessment in many fields.

GEO focuses on facilitating access to earth observation data for nine priority areas: natural and human-induced disasters, environmental sources of health hazards, energy management, climate change and its impacts, freshwater resources, weather forecasting, ecosystem management, sustainable agriculture, and biodiversity conservation.

History and structure[edit]

GEO was established in February 2005 by the Third Earth Observation Summit in Brussels at the end of a process that started in 2003 with the First Earth Observation Summit in Washington, DC.[1] It was launched in response to calls for action by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development [2] and the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrialized countries.[3] These high-level meetings recognized that international collaboration is essential for exploiting the growing potential of Earth observations to support decision making in an increasingly complex and environmentally stressed world.

GEO is a voluntary partnership of governments and international organizations. It provides a framework within which these partners can develop new projects and coordinate their strategies and investments. As of January 2008, GEO’s membership includes 72 governments and the European Commission. In addition, 52 intergovernmental, international and regional organizations with a mandate in Earth observation or related issues have been recognized as participating organizations (see lists below). Each member and participating organization is represented by a so-called principal and a principal alternate. Members make financial contributions to GEO on a voluntary basis.

GEO is constructing GEOSS on the basis of a 10-Year Implementation Plan. Adopted by the Third Earth Observation Summit, the Plan runs from 2005 to 2015. It defines a vision statement for GEOSS, its purpose and scope, expected benefits, nine “Societal Benefit Areas” (disasters, health, energy, climate, water, weather, ecosystems, agriculture and biodiversity), technical and capacity-building priorities, and the GEO governance structure.[4]

GEO is governed by a plenary consisting of all members and participating Organizations. GEO meets in plenary at least once a year at the level of senior officials and periodically at the ministerial level. The plenary held its first meeting in May 2005 in Geneva, followed by GEO-II in December 2005 in Geneva, GEO-III in Bonn in November 2006, and GEO-IV (plus a Ministerial Summit) in Cape Town in November 2007. Members make decisions at the plenary by consensus.

GEO members[edit]

GEO’s members as of January 2015 include 96 countries and the European Commission:[5]

Algeria / Argentina / Australia / Austria / Bahamas, The / Bahrain / Bangladesh / Belgium / Belize / Bulgaria / Brazil / Burkina Faso / Cameroon / Canada / Central African Republic / Chile / China / Colombia / Congo, Republic of the / Costa Rica / Côte d'Ivoire / Croatia / Cyprus / Czech Republic / Denmark / Egypt / Estonia / Ethiopia / European Commission / Finland / France / Gabon / Germany / Ghana / Greece / Guinea, Republic of / Guinea-Bissau / Honduras / Hungary / Iceland / India / Indonesia / Iran / Ireland / Israel / Italy / Japan / Kazakhstan / Korea, Republic of / Latvia / Luxembourg / Madagascar / Malaysia / Mali / Malta / Mauritius / Mexico / Moldova / Morocco / Nepal / Netherlands / New Zealand / Niger / Nigeria / Norway / Pakistan / Panama / Paraguay / Peru / Philippines / Portugal / Romania / Russian Federation / Serbia / Slovakia / Slovenia / South Africa / Spain / Sudan / Sweden / Switzerland / Tajikistan / Thailand / Tunisia / Turkey / Uganda / Ukraine / United Kingdom / United States / Uzbekistan / Vietnam

GEO participating organizations[edit]

As of July 2013, the participating organizations are:

AARSE: African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment
ACMAD: African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development
ADIE: Association for the Development of Environmental Information
APN: Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research
Cathalac: Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean
CEOS: Committee on Earth Observation Satellites
CGMS: Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites
CMO: Caribbean Meteorological Organization
COSPAR: Committee on Space Research
DANTE: Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe
ECMWF: European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts
EEA: European Environment Agency
EIS-AFRICA: Environmental Information Systems - AFRICA
EPOS: European Plate Observing System
ESA: European Space Agency
ESEAS: European Sea Level Service
EUMETNET: Network of European Meteorological Services/Composite Observing System
EUMETSAT: European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites
EuroGeoSurveys: The Association of the Geological Surveys of the European Union
EUREC: European Renewable Energy Centres Agency
EU SatCen: European Union Satellite Centre
EuroGeoSurveys: The Association of the Geological Surveys of the European Union
FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FDSN: Federation of Digital Broad-Band Seismograph Networks
GBIF: Global Biodiversity Information Facility
GCOS: Global Climate Observing System
GEM: Global Earthquake Model Foundation
GLOBE: Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment
GLOS: Great Lakes Observing System
GSDI: Global Spatial Data Infrastructure
GOOS: Global Ocean Observing System
GTOS: Global Terrestrial Observing System
IAG: International Association of Geodesy
ICA: International Cartographic Association
ICSU: International Council for Science
IEEE: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
IGBP: International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme
IGFA: International Group of Funding Agencies for Global Change Research
IHO: International Hydrographic Organization
IIASA: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
IISL: International Institute for Space Law
INCOSE: International Council on Systems Engineering
IO3C: International Ozone Commission
IOC: Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission
ISCGM: International Steering Committee for Global Mapping
ISDE: International Society for Digital Earth
ISDR: International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
ISPRS: International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
IUGS: International Union of Geological Sciences
OGC: Open Geospatial Consortium
POGO: Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean
RCMRD: Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development
SICA/CCAD: Central American Commission for the Environment and Development
SOPAC: South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission
UNCBD: United Nations Convention on Biodiversity
UNCCD: Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
UNECA: United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
UNEP: United Nations Environment Programme
UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNFCCC: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
UNITAR: United Nations Institute for Training and Research
UNOOSA: United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
UNU-EHS: United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security
WCRP: World Climate Research Programme
WDS: World Data System
WFPHA: World Federation of Public Health Associations
WMO: World Meteorological Organization

Notes and references[edit]

External links[edit]