Standardised greenhouse gas data helps to steer climate change mitigation efforts

ICOS, Integrated Carbon Observation System, measures greenhouse gases in a standardised network of over 130 stations across 12 European countries to produce science-based information for both the scientific community and for the decision makers.

Standardised greenhouse gas measurements enable researchers to intercompare the different stations that are all measuring concentrations on the same international reference scale. The ICOS standards fulfil all international criteria, for example, the ones set by World Meteorological Organization and United Nations. 

To guarantee standardised data production, each greenhouse gas measurement station has to fulfil all the ICOS criteria set, both for the stations and for data production. Once the station fulfils all the criteria set for an ICOS station, it receives an ICOS label to show that the data produced is indeed as reliable as required. So far, altogether 32 stations have been certified for standardised ICOS data production. ICOS aims to have a majority of its stations certified within the next year.

ICOS is producing high-precision data on greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, as well as on carbon fluxes between the atmosphere, earth and oceans. The types of stations and the methodologies differ between the three ICOS domains: the way and the conditions in which the measurements are conducted are completely different.However, the stations within the same domain are strongly standardised, utilising similar methodologies and equipment. All labelled stations within a specific domain and station type will also have the same instrumentation installed in the same way, and they will also use exactly the same procedures for submitting the data.

ICOS Zackenberg Fen greenhouse gas measurement station in Greenland. ICOS measurements improve our understanding of climate change related challenges in tundra environments where permafrost is found. Copyrights ICOS ERIC, photographer Konsta Punkka.

ICOS data helps to reveal the carbon emissions and sinks on a European level. Regional greenhouse gas measurements are critical to understand the development of climate change, and to predict as well as to mitigate its consequences.

Save the date: The 4th ICOS Science Conference on “Knowledge for shaping the future – understanding our earths’ biogeochemical processes” will be organised in Utrecht, the Netherlands on 13-17 September 2020. More information will follow at

Text by: Mari Keski-Nisula, ICOS ERIC
ICOS website:

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