CARBOEUROPE IP - Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS)

The Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS) is one of the 44 pan-European research infrastructures featured in the European Roadmap for Research Infrastructures. It has been conceived to provide the long-term observations required to understand the current state of the greenhouse gasbalance and predict its development in the future. ICOS is a high precision long term climate change monitoring network which measures:

  • atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4, CO and radiocarbon-CO2 (14C) to quantify the fossil fuel component,
  • ecosystem fluxes of CO2, CH4, H2O, and heat together with ecosystem variables are needed to understand the underlying processes.

Additionally, a new component is planned to be included in 2012 for monitoring oceanic carbon fluxes. The measured variables are in line with the GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems) recommendations. Data obtained from these sensing networks are intended to be combined through advanced models in order to obtain assessments of carbon sinks and sources at small scale (spatial resolution ca. 10 km).

ICOS is structured around several components and will be coordinated from a
Central Co-ordination Office. Data analysis, management and outreach, as well as
dissemination of information, will be the main duties of this office. Moreover, it will be responsible of an associated data centre (the Carbon Portal), where all ICOS data will be available. Additionally, a Central Analytical Laboratory will be built for calibrating and carrying out analyses for the European network, and two thematic centres (Atmospheric Thematic Center and Ecosystem Thematic Center) will be in charge of monitoring carbon fluxes in the atmosphere and the ecosystems. Moreover, a network of Main Observation Sites, which will be connected to around 30 atmospheric and 30 ecosystem sites, will be developed. Other regional observation networks will also contribute to ICOS.

The project involves institutions from 17 countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and UK) together with partners in Ireland, Poland and Portugal. For implementing ICOS two different phases have been considered: from 2008 to 2011 a Preparatory Phase has been carried out for obtaining funding and support, establishing the network and starting the building of central facilities. This phase has been concluded with a Pilot Phase, where the operability of the future network has been tested at a lower scale. Along this Pilot Phase, four stations have been monitoring atmospheric GHG concentrations in France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Finland, whereas four stations (in Denmark, Finland, Poland and Spain) have been monitoring terrestrial ecosystems. After validation of the proposed network, the Operational Phase will last from 2012 to 2031, and will involve the final setting of the network and a long-term regular determination of GHG concentrations and fluxes.

ICOS was initiated after the successful development of tools and capacities for quantifying the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases at regional and continental scale within Europe. These tools were developed in the frame of several research projects, such as CARBOEUROPE IP or CARBOAFRICA. Moreover, projects like GHG-EUROPE will be the first beneficiaries of this system. Once this network is complete, Europe will be a key player for in situ observations of GHGs, as well as for other secondary applications (validation of automatised and remote sensing devices, user-friendly access to data, modelling and data assimilation).

Integrated Carbon Observation System. A European infrastructure dedicated to high precision monitoring of greenhouse gas fluxes.