The Group on Earth Observations System of Systems, GEOSS, is a co-ordinated initiative by many nations to address the needs for earth-system information expressed by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. We discuss the role of earth-system modelling and data assimilation in transforming earth-system observations into the predictive and status-assessment products required by GEOSS, across many areas of socio-economic interest. First we review recent gains in the predictive skill of operational global earth-system models, on time-scales of days to several seasons. We then discuss recent work to develop from the global predictions a diverse set of end-user applications which can meet GEOSS requirements for information of socio-economic benefit; examples include forecasts of coastal storm surges, floods in large river basins, seasonal crop yield forecasts and seasonal lead-time alerts for malaria epidemics. We note ongoing efforts to extend operational earth-system modelling and assimilation capabilities to atmospheric composition, in support of improved services for air-quality forecasts and for treaty assessment. We next sketch likely GEOSS observational requirements in the coming decades. In concluding, we reflect on the cost of earth observations relative to the modest cost of transforming the observations into information of socio-economic value
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