The observational climate record is a cornerstone of our scientific understanding of climate changes and their potential causes. Existing observing networks have been designed largely in support of operational weather forecasting and continue to be run in this mode. Coverage and timeliness are often higher priorities than absolute traceability and accuracy. Changes in instrumentation used in the observing system, as well as in operating procedures, are frequent, rarely adequately documented and their impacts poorly quantified. For monitoring changes in upper-air climate, which is achieved through in-situ soundings and more recently satellites and ground-based remote sensing, the net result has been trend uncertainties as large as, or larger than, the expected emergent signals of climate change. This is more than simply academic with the tropospheric temperature trends issue having been the subject of intense debate, two international assessment reports and several US congressional hearings. For more than a decade the international climate science community has been calling for the instigation of a network of reference quality measurements to reduce uncertainty in our climate monitoring capabilities. This paper provides a brief history of GRUAN developments to date and outlines future plans. Such reference networks can only be achieved and maintained with strong continuing input from the global metrological community.
PW Thorne, H Vömel, G Bodeker, M Sommer, A Apituley, F Berger, S Bojinski, G Braathen, B Calpini, B Demoz, H Diamond, J Dykema, A Fasso, M Fujiwara, T Gardiner. GCOS reference upper air network (GRUAN): Steps towards assuring future climate records
published, 2012, 2012, AIP Conference Proceedings, yes