The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Global Network for Information and Observations in Mountain Environments has had a busy last few months.

Firstly, we completed our rebranding exercise, the outcomes of which are a change in our “short name” from GEO-GNOME to GEO Mountains, as well as a new logo (see below!). We sincerely hope that you – the mountain community – appreciate these changes and feel motivated to further mobilise yourselves around our Initiative in 2021!

GEO Mountains Logo

At the end of November, a successful General Meeting was held. At the meeting, our revised Implementation Plan, which now includes tasks we are undertaking as a contribution to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s Adaptation at Altitude Programme, was presented. The presentation is accessible here. Following the meeting, we sought expressions of interest to contribute to specific task groups, and are extremely impressed with the level of engagement so far. Even if you have not yet had contact with us, if you are willing and able to contribute, please complete this form.

We followed with interest the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Data Conference, which forms part of the their effort to establish a single, updated resolution covering the open exchange of Earth System data. In taking an increasingly integrated Earth System approach, underpinned by the free and open exchange of essential data (both in situ and remotely sensed, from not only operational but also research-oriented infrastructures), the perspectives of the WMO align very closely with our own.

Of course, data considered essential in mountain regions might be very different to that considered essential elsewhere. With that in mind, keep your eyes peeled for our paper entitled Towards a definition of Essential Mountain Climate Variables. This emerged from a GEO Mountains workshop last year, and we are hopeful that is will appear in the peer-reviewed literature during the first part of next year.

Returning to the WMO Data Conference, we were pleased to contribute a poster presenting a preliminary analysis of the extent to which in situ, mostly research-oriented mountain observatories, station networks and experimental basins make their data freely and easily accessible. The results suggest that even without the installation of new infrastructure, there is considerable scope to increase the amount of relevant, available, and usable mountain data.

Then, of course, the challenge will lie in extracting maximal information from it to improve fundamental understanding, generate reliable future predictions, and usefully inform policy. Incidentally, we will shortly make the inventory behind our analysis accessible and editable online so that you can directly contribute your local knowledge (e.g. add new sites, additional metadata, information on technical standards followed, and crucially, links to data sources).

Elsewhere, work on our relatively new AI4EBVs project, led by EURAC Research, is continuing apace. This project was one of five proposals (from a total number submitted of 60) proposals to be granted funding from Microsoft through the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON). The project aims to exploit the combined power of high-resolution satellite imagery, machine learning algorithms, and cloud computing to evaluate and improve ecosystem maps in mountain regions. This project and other work by our colleagues at EURAC on global snow cover trends, contributed to a poster that GEO Mountains presented at the UNFCCC’s Earth Information Day. We are hopeful of using our network and position as part of the GEO Work Programme to build similar consortia to leverage such funding sources over the coming years.

Continuing to look ahead, in early 2021 we will hold a series of workshops and associated consultations in all major global mountain regions that seek to address three important questions:

1. What requirements/wishes do users of mountain data have with respect to an online database / portal through which mountain data will be searchable and made available?

2. Which organisations and institutions are major providers of relevant data?; and

3. What are the major gaps experienced by users with respect to the discoverability, accessibility, and usability of the datasets themselves?

Please do participate yourselves if you are able. We would also be extremely grateful if you could put us in contact with any key regional stakeholders (researchers, environmental managers, government officials, NGO representatives, charity representatives, policy makers, etc.) whom we should invite to participate, such that the outcomes are as representative as possible.   

In another exciting forthcoming development, a new, dedicated GEO Mountains website will be released in 2021! We hope that site this will serve as a “go to” resource for the community, providing not only information on our governance structure and objectives, but also a wealth of useful information and links. Equally importantly, we intend to use the site as a platform to showcase our GEO Mountains and GEO Mountains-affiliated projects, as well as their success and impact stories! In this way, we hope to demonstrate enhanced reach of what we can achieve by being part of such a network. In the meantime, our existing page persists (a link to the new site will be provided there once available).

Finally, we were delighted to learn that GEO Mountains Core Member, MRI SLC member, and lead of the MRI’s Mountain Observatories Working Group, Professor Maria Shahgedanova, has recently become involved as an international expert on a project of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) entitled Building capacity and generating evidence for climate change impacts on soil, sediment and water resources in mountain regions. The project is concerned with climate change adaptation in the Hindu Kush Himalayas and the Andes. This week, Maria gave a well-received presentation at a project coordination meeting entitled How science can contribute to climate change adaptation in mountains. Many opportunities of mutual interest between the project participants and the MRI/GEO Mountains were subsequently identified.

In closing, I sincerely thank those of you have contributed your expertise and support to GEO Mountains for this far, and re-emphasise that we are an open, inclusive Initiative that is always very willing for new members/participants to become involved! 

I wish you all a very peaceful and relaxing break, and a happy and prosperous New Year.

On behalf of the co-leads,

James Signature

Dr. James Thornton
GEO Mountains Scientific Project Officer

supported by

MRI logo blueCNR logoAatASDCGEO


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