Scientific impact of ICOS

We provide an added value of data from three domains (atmosphere, ecosystem, ocean) that can be combined, making cross-comparisons and original research ideas possible. There are a large number of researchers making use of ICOS services, even though we started to provide data from ICOS-labelled stations only in late 2017.

ICOS improves the quality, spatial resolution and time-series length of greenhouse gas observations in several ways – for example by enabling the combination of diverse datasets from various countries and across the domains. The ICOS research infrastructure also provides financial stability for the operation of measurement stations, extending the time horizons from often project-based funding to a more long-term model. Moreover, ICOS sets a high level of standardisation.

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Innovative community of scientists

The ICOS community consists of more than 500 scientists from more than 70 renowned universities or institutes. The ICOS community has strong connections to colleagues and operators also outside ICOS.

ICOS makes a significant contribution to the European and the global climate-science community by bringing greenhouse gas scientists across Europe together as a community, increasing collaboration and the sharing of results, as well as improving access to data and data uniformity throughout its network. Moreover, ICOS provides easy access to new methods and instrumentation.

The combination of ocean, atmosphere and ecosystem data and the measurement and/or analysis communities provides added value to the scientists. This added value lies in connecting the previously separated domains, making cross-comparisons possible and sprouting original research ideas.

Providing services for a better science

ICOS’ impact is amplified by its role as the analytics and synthesis service provider for the wider scientific community. ICOS is the main European provider to the globally-used Observation Package (ObsPack), CarbonTracker and GLOBALVIEWplus products, which are integrally used in (inverse) modelling by the global climate modelling community.

ICOS also provides physical services through the Thematic Centres and the Central Analytical Laboratories. These are widely used, and the Central Analytical Laboratories are gaining importance in the global reference sample network, being second to only the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has performed this role for decades.

ICOS is a key European contributor to the greenhouse gas observations of the Integrated Global Greenhouse Gas Information System (IG3IS) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). We also provide data to the European Union's Earth observation programme, Copernicus. The data in the Copernicus service will be used, for example, by national weather services or private companies to improve air-pollution predictions and also to develop other data products using ICOS data, such as maps of fossil fuel emissions.

Impact through project collaboration

ICOS contributes to several projects and initiatives, which in turn, can have a large impact on science, society and economy.

Joint study on European 2018 drought

The 2018 summer had the largest ever area in Europe under extreme drought. Temperature records were broken in many regions of Central Europe and the UK, fires broke out in the Nordic countries, and several countries were affected by crop failures. 

The 17 study results published in a special issue of Philosophical Transactions B in September 2020 show how vegetation in Europe responds to drought, i.e. how the exchange of carbon between the vegetation and atmosphere is affected. The 17 studies represent the work of over 200 scientists within the ICOS research infrastructure, representing all European top universities and research institutes.

Read more about the joint study on the 'Science success stories'.

Collaboration of different environmental research fields leads to a better understanding of our planet Earth

The ENVRIplus project (2015–2019) facilitated the collaboration of all the European research infrastructures (RIs) in environmental field. With the coordination of ICOS, the project reached goals that have broad scientific and socioeconomical impacts. The enhanced collaboration between environmental RIs increased the potential for interdisciplinary use of environmental data and data products. This, in turn, boosts the quality of information on environment and encourages the innovative use of existing information.

ICOS, together with its project partners published a White Paper analysing the current landscape of environmental RIs and offering possibilities to further reinforced cooperation. ICOS also led the communication activities of ENVRIplus, increasing the visibility of environmental RIs and the importance of holistic understanding of the Earth System.