This section gives the answers to many of our most frequently asked questions.
What is NOAA CoastWatch/OceanWatch?
NOAA CoastWatch/OceanWatch is a NOAA-wide program. Our mission is to process satellite data and provide oceanographic satellite products to federal, state and local stakeholders such as marine scientists, coastal resource managers, and the general public. NOAA CoastWatch/OceanWatch is comprised of Central Operations and several Nodes. Links to the Nodes are found on the Regional Nodes page. Go to the About section for more information about the mission and organizational structure of NOAA CoastWatch/OceanWatch.
Does CoastWatch cover more than just the coast?
Yes! Although the origins of CoastWatch began by covering specific US coastal regions, including the Great Lakes, we now have global coverage for many satellite data products at CoastWatch.noaa.gov. Additionally, two OceanWatch nodes focus on satellite data for the open ocean, one for the Atlantic and one for the Pacific. Coverage for high latitudes in both Arctic and Antarctic regions is being developed by PolarWatch.
Does CoastWatch cover any of the lakes throughout the U.S.?
The US Great Lakes are included in NOAA's official jurisdiction and some satellite data products are available for the Great Lakes regions. Additionally, CoastWatch has a Great Lakes regional node.
Does CoastWatch have any information about hurricanes?
No, although there may occasionally be satellite images of hurricanes posted
on the site for general interest, CoastWatch is not responsible for
distributing hurricane information.
Does CoastWatch have aerial photos?
CoastWatch does not have aerial photos. We provide satellite ocean remote sensing products with global coverage and for specialized regions around the US and specialized regions outside of the US in support of our international partner agencies. These products are publically available and can be found by using the Satellite Data Products link or contact our helpdesk for assistance.
How are CoastWatch data used?
There are many uses for CoastWatch data. For instance, temperature images are used to locate fishing spots and for forecasting weather. Ocean color images help scientists track biological changes in the ocean, while sea surface wind images are used primarily by meteorologists and boaters. See the How our data are used and Emily's Post for more examples and stories.
What CoastWatch websites are available?
The primary NOAA CoastWatch/OceanWatch website is maintained by Central Operations, housed at the scientific research and development arm (STAR) of NESDIS in College Park, MD, USA. Regional Nodes have unique websites for data distribution which focus on their geographical region and/or their primary expertise and user base. Links to these sites are found on the Regional Nodes page. More information here about the organizational structure of NOAA CoastWatch/OceanWatch
Satellite Data Products
What satellite data products can be found on NOAA CoastWatch/OceanWatch?
CoastWatch provides access to oceanic and related environmental parameters
derived from satellite observations, including:
From which satellites do CoastWatch data come?
CoastWatch provides data from several sensors on several satellite platforms. For more detailed information, see the Satellite Data Products.
Sea Surface Height (coming soon) - 5 satellites
Sea Surface Salinity
Sea Surface Temperature
Sentinel-1a and 1b
Where can I access the CoastWatch data products?
Links to CoastWatch data products can be found under the 'Data Access' tab within each Satellite Data Product main page.
Are there interactive tools to help me identify data that meet my search criteria?
Yes. Currently, we have 2 types of search tools you may find useful. Other
tools are in development and will be released soon. One of the
allows data selection broken down into the following categories: geographic
region, product, sensor, satellite, and date.
How accurate are CoastWatch products?
Accuracies vary with each type of sensor and processing used. Validation for
most products are available through websites that describe the methodology and
techniques used to create CoastWatch products. Metadata includes
approximations of parameter and spatial accuracies. Please consult the
"details" and "information" tabs for each product of interest.
Data Formats and Software
What is the CoastWatch data format?
CoastWatch supports a variety of data formats for satellite images.
What software is available that can read or visualize CoastWatch data formats?
The CoastWatch Software Library and Utilities package allows data users to
easily manipulate and visualize satellite data in NetCDF (.nc), and CoastWatch
HDF (.hdf). The utilities are composed of both graphical and command-line
tools that can read CoastWatch data and allow the user to convert or customize
the display of CoastWatch products.
Can I use the CoastWatch Utilities software for CoastWatch products?
Yes, most CoastWatch products are now offered in formats suitable for use with the CoastWatch Utilities. Format of products offered at regional nodes may vary.
How do I convert CoastWatch data to a grid file for use in ArcView/ArcGIS?
Since CoastWatch doesn't provide the binary data in FLT/HDR format online, you can convert CoastWatch HDF files to ESRI Binary Raster using the CoastWatch Utility command 'cwexport.'