It must be going on a couple of years now that we have been getting e-mails at work talking about GEOSS, a new “system of systems” that will somehow greatly increase our knowledge about the Earth, but it wasn’t until just a few days ago that the real importance of the project hit me. I got so excited about the whole thing that I wanted to write an article about it, but realized that I couldn’t really remember any of the specifics about the system from the few years of half-read e-mail. An EPA document helped supply the facts that I haven’t really been paying attention to over the last couple of years.
GEOSS, which stands for Global Earth Observing System of Systems, is an attempt to “connect the dots” between thousands of individual pieces of technology that are gathering earth observations around the globe. The global initiative is spearheaded by the United States, through the Group on Earth Observations, and supported by sixty countries, the European Commission and more than 40 international organizations. NOAA’s Earth Observing System Web page, in speaking of GEOSS, asks us to “imagine a world in which we can forecast winter weather months in advance; predict where the next outbreak of malaria, SARS or West Nile virus is likely to hit; and, in the U.S. alone, reduce energy costs by about $1 billion annually.”
Of the system, EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt said, “Our environment knows no boundaries. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. We all cause pollution—every one of us. And working together, we can find the solutions and affect the changes needed to protect people, promote prosperity and preserve our planet,”
I don’t think I quite understood the significance of GEOSS, and I still probably don’t realize it fully, but I see GEOSS as something like the Google of Earth data. It is the very discontinuity of data about the Earth’s systems that causes so much contention in making policy and management decisions. We don’t know exactly how to fix the Earth’s problems when we don’t exactly know, from our fractured data, what the Earth’s problems are, or even if it really has any. GEOSS represents an opportunity to finally get a whole snapshot of the Earth’s health. I am so excited.
I will post more about GEOSS as I know more.