Final Report on the Status of GEO CRI - Feb., 2019

Final Report on the Status of GEO Initiative (GEOCRI)

Feb., 2019

This document is submitted to the Program Board for information. 


Building on the Information Service for Cold Regions component of the water task in the 2012-2015 GEO Work Plan, GEOCRI was accepted as an Initiative in the 2016 Transitional Work Programme. GEOCRI aims to develop a user-driven approach for information services to cold regions to complement current efforts mainly driven by scientists. GEOCRI’s scope includes the Arctic, Antarctic, high-latitude oceans, Himalaya-“Third Pole”, and high-mountain cold areas. It is intended to strengthen synergies between environment, climate, and cryosphere research efforts and to foster collaboration for improved Earth observations and information at a global scale. 


GEOCRI is currently led by a co-lead group which comprises individuals from 11 institutes distributed in Asia, Europe and North America. Canada, China, Finland, Italy, Japan, Norway and USA are the most active contributing GEO Members. There are around ten other GEO Members and Participating Organizations which are also engaged. 

The co-lead group model works well in the current phase. The co-leads work closely and their responsibilities span from daily operation to stakeholder engagement, strategic planning and resource mobilization. An Advisory Committee, as planned in the Implementation Plan, is expected to be established to give high-level guidance to the Initiative and share some strategy burden of the co-lead group. 

The Finnish co-lead will step down in March 2019, although a new co-lead will be nominated as soon as possible for a smooth transition.


The current geographic coverage of the GEOCRI community is mainly in the Arctic and High Mountain Asia. 

The Arctic Council is the intergovernmental forum coordinating issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) was established by the Arctic Council in 2011 with the aim to create a well-integrate Arctic Observing System. SAON has two major activities: the Arctic Data Committee and the Committee on Observations and Networks, led respectively by Peter Pulsifer (USA) and Hannele Savela (Finland), both of whom also lead the GEOCRI tasks on data and observation networks, respectively. 

There are many other global or regional activities on cold regions. These include, for example, the Global Cryosphere Watch (GCW) focus on the physical parameters of cryosphere, EU-H2020 Arctic Cluster projects, and the High Mountain and Cold Regions Working Group of the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) under the Big Earth Data projects. NASA, ESA and CAS all have projects on observing Asia high mountains, and parts of the polar regions. 

Working closely with SAON and other initiatives, GEOCRI avoids duplicating the work already done on data inventories, observing platforms, observing programs, modelling programmes and other areas. Key niches for GEOCRI are in the federated search of cold region data and the development of Essential Cold Region Variables (ECRVs), which are expected to include human and societal elements with polar and cold region observations. 

Currently GEOCRI activities rely on in-kind contributions. The co-lead group is preparing a strategy to pursue funding from various sources for the GEOCRI research and long-term operation. This is being done in conjunction with the development of next Implementation Plan. 


GEOCRI plans to build an infrastructure to improve cold regions data access and interoperability and to integrate in-situ and remote sensing observations. A community portal in GEOSS Platform is in discussion and design to serve the purpose, with a focus on GEOCRI Essential Cold Region Variables By a continuous engagement process such as the recent Polar Data and Systems Architecture Workshop (, the GEOCRI team will ensure that this infrastructure functions seamlessly and with other key infrastructure nodes (e.g. Global Cryosphere Watch, Arctic Spatial Data Infrastructure etc.) 

Development of the ECRVs is an ongoing critical process which helps the community develop, engages the users, and identifies needs for observations, data infrastructures and information services. The co-leads have started to plan a work meeting to implement the variables, and work out the requirements from the users and data gaps for addressing the Societal Benefit Areas (SBAs). GEOCRI actively used the 2017 Arctic Circle Assembly, POLAR2018, the 2018 Polar Data Planning Summit, the 2018 Arctic Observing Summit and Arctic Science Ministerial to collect user requirements. 

Potential users of GEOCRI include scientists, policy-makers, industries, business and commerce and local communities. Specific information products or services are yet to be defined in the Implementation Plan, so no user group has been specified as a likely source of a policy mandate. 


GEOCRI is active in organizing sessions and events at GEO meetings such as GEO Symposia and Plenaries. It is responsive to GEO calls on progress reporting and has represented GEO at relevant meetings. GEOCRI benefits from GEO’s convening power, particularly in bringing together representatives from Earth’s “three poles”, as well as GEO’s advocacy of open data and integration of in situ observations and remote sensing. The GEOCRI team appreciates the services offered by the GEOSS Platform, including the infrastructure to develop a community portal. The GEOCRI team is working with exploring cloud services such as AWS or other national facilities to co-design products and services. 


GEOCRI has put a lot of effort into engaging and building the cold regions community and has gained recognition by those working on high mountain and polar data and research. The ECRVs and the Community Portal (in development) have potential to become shared goals, although the needs of key policy users and the relevant products and services are yet to be specified. In short, the envisioned user-driven approach is at this stage a desired outcome rather than a current reality. 

GEOCRI faces challenges in continuity of core team members and expansion of the governance structure to motivate the activate contribution from beyond the co-leads team. 

The Secretariat recommends the Programme Board help GEOCRI shape the implementation plan for the next phase, in particular, with regard to interfacing with potential policy users. 


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