GEOWOW: GEOSS Interoperability for Weather, Ocean and Water

Figure 1: GEOWOW Logo.

The Challenge

 Understanding better the complex interactions between society and the environment remains one of the fundamental scientific challenges of our time.  Turning that understanding into remedial action is one of the key political challenges. The Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) provides the framework to coordinate and integrate Earth observation activities at the global level and provide the information necessary to develop a shared understanding and common action.

The  GEOWOW project (which began in 2011 and concludes in 2014)  aims to improve data discovery, access and usage and evolve GEOSS in terms of interoperability, standardization and functionality while specifically addressing three key application areas: weather, water and, ocean-ecosystems. GEOWOW is short for “GEOSS interoperability for Weather, Ocean and Water.” The project includes 15 international partners and is coordinated by the  European Space Agency (ESA).


The Objectives

The project supports the development of the GEOSS by:

• Proposing and validating an architectural model federating, connecting and integrating Earth observation and other Earth science data holdings at global, regional and local scale for harmonized access to heterogeneous resources

• Developing innovative methods for harmonized access and use of heterogeneous data, services, and models to foster the sharing of knowledge among multiple disciplines, and the more integrated assessment and understanding necessary to advance global sustainability research

• Developing services for data discovery, access and use establishing and promoting data sharing and usage procedures consistent with the implementation guidelines for the GEOSS Data Sharing Principles.


The application areas

The THORPEX Interactive Grand Global Ensemble (TIGGE) is an archive of global ensemble weather forecasts that are generated routinely at major weather forecast centers around the world. GEOWOW is enhancing the accessibility of the TIGGE archive for the wider user community to exploit the substantial multi-disciplinary potential of TIGGE data. Users will be able to efficiently access time series of weather forecast data at specific locations, thereby improving the predictive capabilities of their models.

Global stewardship of the marine ecosystem toward sustainable development requires understanding and monitoring of the ocean state, for variables from physics to fish. GEOWOW will extend an infrastructure of interoperable ocean data and information systems (e.g. GOOS, IODE and OBIS) and make them available in the GEOSS Common Infrastructure for use in science, assessments (in particular the Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme), and management. GEOWOW is supporting this assessment program and developing technological cloud-based components to compute the indicators necessary for global ocean assessment.

An ocean ecosystem. Credit: European Space Agency.

GEOWOW is contributing to global standardization by developing specific hydrological profiles and developing Sensor Observation Services able to extend the interoperability among hydrological applications at the global level.  The work of GEOWOW will result in a common global exchange infrastructure for hydrological data.

GEOWOW addresses cross-thematic needs, testing and validating different solutions and components in collaboration with the broader scientific community. GEOWOW extends the multi-disciplinary GEOSS brokering framework from discovery and access to data,  finding and accessing services, and analytical models. Specific multi-disciplinary scenarios focus on predicting water runoff from meteorological data, evaluating the risk associated with drought, and contributing to developing indicators for global ocean assessment.


Preliminary Results

Half way through the project, the results are starting to roll in. From a technological point of view, there are two major highlights:

• Data exploitation (geo-processing) capabilities have been developed, by GEOWOW partners (TerraDue and ESA), that enable the thematic partners to access and process data from their capacities, also supporting the development and validation of models and providing the necessary interfaces to the computing resources (even high performance, such as Cloud) providers. The key feature of this development is the ability to publish and reuse the ensemble of data, algorithms, and computing power created by an initial user so that other users (e.g. scientists) can replicate the experiment or adapt it to their needs. This offers important opportunities to GEOSS to move beyond data discovery to data analysis and use, and to the reproducibility of science in distributed systems.

• The GEO Discovery and Access Brokering Framework was adopted by the GEO Plenary in 2011 as a key innovation to extend the number of capacities and data resources reachable through the GEOSS Common Infrastructure. The novelty of this approach is that it builds the necessary bridges across disciplinary communities without requiring them to make changes to the standards and protocols they use. GEOWOW extends the brokering framework further with improved ranking of search results, extended semantic searching capabilities, and improved access to data, services and models.

From a thematic perspective, the project is delivering significant results. In particular:

Weather: The greater accessibility to the TIGGE ensemble allows users to improve the quality of their models and improve their predictive capabilities in cases of extreme weather events.

Oceans: GEOWOW is supporting the development of the information infrastructure for the ocean science and management communities, including extension of available data portals, greater global connectivity via the brokering framework, and greater ability to calculate indicators in a repeatable way through the new cloud-based infrastructure. This is delivering greater insights for example into the relationships between ocean acidification and impacts on ecosystems.

Water runoff: the project is making significant contributions to global standardization with the development of WaterML 2.0, and access to global observations and river runoff data delivered via an innovative Sensor Observation Service.



GEOWOW is increasingly being recognized as a major contributor to the development of GEOSS by delivering methods, tools, data and services, and enabling new scientific insights.  The GEO Plenary and Ministerial meeting in Geneva in January 2014 will take important decisions on the evolution of GEOSS past its 2015 target, and there is little doubt that the positive outcomes of projects such as GEOWOW will play a significant part in their deliberations.


Joost van Bemmelen works at the European Space Agency and is the GEOWOW project coordinator. He can be reached at

Max Craglia works at the European Commission Joint Research Centre and is the scientific coordinator of the GEOWOW project. He can be reached at