Observations of planet Earth and especially all climate system components and forcings are increasingly needed for planning and decision making related to climate services in the broadest sense. Although significant progress has been made, much more remains to be done before a fully functional climate observing system exists. Observations are needed on all spatial scales from local to global, and all time scales, especially to understand and document changes in extremes. Climate change from human activities adds both a new dimension and an imperative: to acquire climate observations of sufficient quality and coverage, and analyze them into products for multiple purposes to inform decisions for mitigation, adaptation, assessing vulnerability and impacts, geo--‐engineering, and predicting climate variability and change and their consequences. A major challenge is to adequately deal with the continually changing observing system, especially from satellites and other autonomous platforms such as in the ocean. Even with new computational tools, further challenges remain to provide adequate analysis, processing, meta--‐data, archival, access, and management of the resulting data and the data products. As volumes of data continue to grow, so do the challenges of distilling information to allow us to understand what is happening and why, and what the implications are for the future.
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