Royal Australian Navy obtains the COASTMAP NetCDF extension for ArcGIS and C/JMTK

NetCDF and OPeNDAP support for Arcgis and C/JMTK - ASA Press Release

July 7, 2005 -- The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) uses GIS extensively to manage geographic data as well as meteorological and oceanographic (metocean) data. One of the difficulties faced is the integration of NetCDF format metocean data with ArcGIS, so the scientists developed a variety of tools to import NetCDF data into GIS formats. However, this approach was not efficient and created duplicate databases. In an attempt to address this issue, the Royal Australian Navy has obtained the COASTMAP NetCDF extension for ArcGIS and C/JMTK.

The COASTMAP NetCDF Layer Extension allows NetCDF data that is COARDS and CF compliant to be viewed in ArcGIS for RAN operations. This data is generated by the Australian Science Agency, CSIRO, and Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

The extension includes the NetCDF custom layer and the Time Toolbar and allows RAN staff to manage, display, animate, and analyze both scalar (salinity, temperature, elevation) and vector (current and wind data) data in its native NetCDF format.

The next phase of the project has begun to extend the extension to include direct OPeNDAP support of the CSIRO and BOM data.


COASTMAP is a suite of tools for managing metocean data and numerical models in a GIS framework. COASTMAP contains a number of components.

  • COASTMAP Data Server and Web Services

  • COASTMAP Thick Client
    NetCDF & OPeNDAP Tools
    Marine Models-OILMAP, CHEMMAP, SARMAP, and others
    Data Analysis Tools
    Management of Time Varying Data Layers

  • COASTMAP Thin Client for accessing ArcIMS-based applications
The NetCDF Layer allows users to access and visualize NetCDF and OPeNDAP data in its native format in ArcGIS.

What is NetCDF and why is it so important?

NetCDF was developed at the Unidata Program of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) ( NetCDF has been adopted for use in earth, ocean, and atmospheric sciences in large part because it is a flexible, self-describing format capable of conveying large sets of array-oriented data.

The flexibility provided by NetCDF has allowed data providers and users to create NetCDF schemas to suit their own particular needs. The downside of this flexibility is that there are many flavors of NetCDF schemas in use, and many scientists use their own conventions. One of the problems in developing tools to support NetCDF is that there is a large amount of legacy data being generated in nonstandard formats.
The good news is that an initiative at UCAR has defined a number of NetCDF conventions, such as the COARDS convention, sponsored by the Cooperative Ocean-Atmosphere Research Data Service, and the CF (Climate and Forecast Metadata) convention. These conventions provide extremely useful structure and metadata standards for NetCDF.

The COASTMAP NetCDF layer supports four schemas that are CF compliant that can be used to manage a variety of time varying gridded and nongridded data.

  • Uniform rectangular gridded data for storing arrays of scalar or vector values. Very common for global and large-scale regional products.
  • Nonuniform or randomly distributed time series data. Data is temporal at each point, but each point is geostatic. Useful for storing observation data such as current meter data and other static observation devices.
  • Unstructured grids, finite element, triangular, quadrilateral grids. Can be used to store arrays of gridded scalar or vector data. Common format for regional models such as Adcirc, POM, and RMA2.
  • Moving particles in time and space. Useful for moving objects such as drifters, marine mammals, and vessels. Also used for particle models such as oil spill and chemical spill models.

Example Applications

Because the COASTMAP NetCDF layer provides native support for NetCDF data in ArcGIS, users can now rapidly integrate time varying in-situ observation data, remote sensing data, and forecast models in a unified GIS framework, both for the client and server. Large, global and regional NetCDF local data files may be viewed as well as remote data served by OPeNDAP servers. The data may be used for analysis as well as for specific modeling applications such as oil spill modeling, chemical and LNG modeling, atmospheric modeling, search and rescue, and military decision aids.

U.S. Coast Guard SAROPS
An integrated team consisting of ASA, Northrop Grumman Information Technology, and Metron Inc. is developing SAROPS, the next generation of software, for national search and rescue operations. SAROPS uses COASTMAP components, including the NetCDF custom layer, to manage a variety of metocean data. The system allows the search planner to define the scenario; to access environmental data (winds and currents) via Web services; and to develop near optimal search plans given the amount of searching effort available.

One of the primary requirements for emergency response and predictive modeling is access to environmental data. ASA provides web services to allow users to connect to environmental data servers for the latest in oceanographic and meteorological conditions. The U.S. Navy Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) uses a variety of ASA's COASTMAP modeling tools to integrate atmospheric and oceanographic observations and model output to determine environmental conditions globally. This data is then further integrated with GIS-based models that simulate water movement (hydrodynamics), waterborne pollutants including chemicals and oil, and drifting objects.


Visualization of NetCDF data

Visualization of surface currents and winds from the operational models run by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab


COASTMAP coupled to the OILMAP oil spill model for Tampa Bay


Visualization of Seas Surface Temperature and Surface Currents

Visualization of Currents in Gulf of Mexico


For more information please contact:

Eoin Howlett
Applied Science Associates
70 Dean Knauss Drive
Narragansett, RI 02882
phone: 1-401-789-6224
fax: 1-401-789-1932
e-mail: Email Contact


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