J3.1 Observing Systems Capability Analysis and Review Tool (OSCAR)

Thursday, 10 January 2013: 8:30 AM
Ballroom G (Austin Convention Center)
Jerome Lafeuille, WMO, Geneva 2, Switzerland; and N. Hettich


The Observing Systems Capability Analysis and Review tool (OSCAR) is a resource developed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Space Programme in support of Earth Observation studies and global satellite mission coordination. It targets all users interested in the status and the planning of global observing systems as well as data users looking for instrument characteristics at platform level.

OSCAR is a web-based system of three interlinked modules covering the following domains:

• User Requirements for Observation

• Space–based observing capabilities

• Surface-based capabilities (future module)

While each of these modules may be consulted individually, the tool is designed with the goal to integrate requirements and capabilities. This facilitates the so-called “Rolling Requirements Review”, comparing “what is needed” with “what is or will be available”, in order to identify gaps and support the planning of global observing systems.

OSCAR is being further developed, and additional functionality will be added. One future objective is to generate automatic compliance analyses between the quantitative requirements and the actual capabilities (space- or surface-based).

OSCAR is publicly and freely accessible (www.wmo.int/oscar). Its intuitive web-based interface makes it easy to use and enables efficient navigation and consultation.


This module serves as the official repository of requirements for observation of physical variables in support of WMO and co-sponsored international programmes. These requirements are defined “technology-free” and are expressed in terms of the following criteria: uncertainty; horizontal and vertical resolution; observing cycle; and timeliness.

The requirements are collected on a global scale and directly maintained on-line by designated focal points for each application area. They are regularly reviewed by groups of experts. At present, over 600 requirements are expressed for around 200 variables in over 20 different application areas, all of which can be analyzed, filtered and exported using different criteria.


This module essentially serves two purposes. First, it is a comprehensive source of factual information of satellite capabilities. It includes information of past, present and future satellite missions, instrument and other related details, covering a period from 1960 up to 2050, which adds up to 500+ satellites and 700+ instruments.

The tool facilitates the quick look-up of specific items by providing an intelligent auto-suggest function in the search field. Furthermore, it enables the user to create advanced queries using filters, such as:

• “Show all satellites planned in the period 2020-2040, flying in geostationary orbit and operated by NOAA,NASA or USGS” or

• “Show all currently flying instruments of the Radar Altimeter type”

Second, it serves as an analysis tool providing expert assessments on the relevance of the various instruments for particular purposes.

OSCAR/Space currently provides two kinds of expert assessments:

a) Gap Analyses by Variables

This qualitative analysis is based on an expert assessment of the relevance and limitations of instruments with regard to the measurement of particular geophysical variables. In combination with the actual or projected timelines of the various satellite missions, it enables to display a gap analysis for each variable over the selected time frame.

b) Capability review

The “Capability review” is an evaluation of planned satellite missions against the observing capabilities identified as a goal by WMO, including for instance radar altimetry, earth radiation budget or ocean colour imagery. The OSCAR tool automatically generates timelines showing the availability or the potential gaps with respect to the nominal configuration.

OSCAR utilization

Although the first level analysis provided in OSCAR does not replace a detailed analysis of individual instrument performances and of derived environmental data records, it is expected to be a valuable reference for a number of applications and studies, in particular for the planning of future operational environmental systems.

Within the WMO Space Programme, OSCAR is an essential tool to communicate an integrated vision of the space-based observing system and to foster the collaborative efforts of the satellite operators' community towards addressing observation gaps and ensuring long-term operational continuity.

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