In response to calls from the Second World Climate Conference (Geneva, 1990), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) created the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) in March 1991. The creation was also a result of the desire of many nations to gather the information required to improve forecasts of climate change, the management of marine resources, mitigation of the effects of natural disasters, and the use and protection of the coastal zone and coastal ocean. The call to create and develop a GOOS was reinforced in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.
Sampling requirements for various ocean applications driven by societal needs were developed in the late 1990s, including both in situ and satellite observing platforms. These were associated with "essential variables" established by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), which took into account technical feasibility and impact for improving climate change forecasting. For the oceans, these included sea surface and subsurface temperatures, salinity, sea level, sea ice, currents, nutrient and carbon dioxide concentrations, ocean color and phytoplankton distribution. The systems for ocean measurement under the aegis of GOOS were initially designed by the Ocean Observing System Development Panel, refined in the 1998 Action Plan for GOOS/GCOS, and further refined in the GCOS Implementation Plan.
The OceanObs'09 conference (Venice, Italy) involved more than 600 participants from 36 countries who defined a vision for societally beneficial ocean observations to be sustained over the next decade. Participants called for the development of a framework to plan and move forward an enhanced global observing system with existing and new physical, biogeochemical, and biological observations.
People Behind Launching GOOS
"What a magnificent opportunity it can be for an enterprising Nation to present WOOS [World Ocean Observing System] as a gift to an environmentally distracted world?"
- Henry (Hank) Stommel, US Oceanographer, 1990