Software Features

The CoastWatch Utilities let users work with earth science data created by NOAA CoastWatch / OceanWatch. Users can easily view and convert data in various formats: HDF 4, NOAA 1b, and NetCDF 4. The software has both interactive and batch processing tools. The functionality includes:

Information and Statistics - File contents, statistics computations on variables (for example min, max, mean, standard deviation), direct access to raw file and variable attributes.

Data Processing - Data format conversions, compositing, generic variable math, data sampling.

Graphics and Visualization - Interactive visualization/analysis, batch image rendering, ancillary graphics creation such as data coverage maps, grids, coastlines, land masks.

Registration and Navigation - Resampling of data from one projection to another, interactive generation of region masters, manual and automatic navigational correction, computation of solar and earth location angles.

Network - Data download and server status.

The CoastWatch Utilities are available for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.

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New in Version 3.4.1

(Replaces version 3.4.0 b1088)

Graphical tools

  • CDAT now computes point data overlay statistics in a background thread for a faster user experience.
  • CDAT has new oceanographic palettes derived from the Python matplotlib cmocean package.
  • The CDAT color enhancement functions have a new option “Gamma” for displaying visible band satellite data. The gamma function accounts for computer display gamma correction when showing visible data scaled between 0% and 100% intensity values.
  • The visual appearance of coastlines plotted on images in CDAT and cwrender has been improved in some cases by adding a new higher resolution coastline database, and adjusting the algorithm that selects the coastline detail level to use for the scene being displayed.

Command line tools

  • The cwdownload and cwstatus tools now support SSL network connections via the HTTPS protocol.
  • A new tool cwscript is available for running scripts in BeanShell ( that can make calls to the CoastWatch Utilities API. An extra launcher cwgscript is also available to run scripts that create GUI windows. The cwscript manual page gives several examples of scripts.
  • The cwregister tool has been improved and now runs up to 1.9x faster.
  • The cwrender tool has a new enhancement type ’gamma’ for use with visible band satellite data.
  • The cwrender tool has a new --palettelist option that prints a list of valid palette names that can be specified for color enhancement.

Bug fixes

  • The CDAT window had an issue preserving the view contents after resizing – it now works more like Google Earth.
  • CDAT point data overlay display now correctly saves overlay changes when the point data chooser dialog window is closed.
  • The automatic documentation generation system was re-written to correct various user’s guide and manual page formatting issues.
  • The cwrender tool no longer creates a ’palette’ directory in the user resources if the directory is not found. This was causing issues on some systems.
  • GOES-style geostationary projection is now computed correctly. Previously only Meteosat/Himawari scanners were supported.
  • CDAT on Windows now correctly detects when a user double-clicks a file in the Windows file explorer, and opens the file in the currently running CDAT instance, rather than creating a new CDAT window.
  • CDAT on Linux uses a new GUI theme as a workaround for a tab bar issue. When many file tabs were opened, the tab bar became unusable.



See the User's Guide Appendix G for a list of major updates and bug fixes.

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The following are screenshots from the CoastWatch Data Analysis Tool (CDAT):


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Download the packages below. For help with installation, consult the Installation Notes section of the User's Guide. Please submit errors or bug reports to A MD5 checksum for the packages listed below is provided: md5sum


Operating system





Visual C++ Redistributable Package (prerequisite for Windows users)





("novm" version does not include a bundled JRE and uses the system Java)



Mac OS X



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The CoastWatch Utilities, presented at the CoastWatch/OceanWatch/PolarWatch Annual Meeting, July/August 2017, Santa Cruz, California. Topics covered: historical data products/distribution/software, software development process and functionality, packages available, latest beta version. (cw_utilities_2017.pdf)

CDAT Demo Annual Meeting, topics covered include: software distribution page, opening data files, enhancement & palettes, overlays, surveys, masking, full screen mode, export to PNG and PDF.


The CoastWatch Utilities, presented at the CoastWatch/OceanWatch Meeting, January 2016, Miami, Florida. Topics covered: current software functionality and packages, development history, code architecture, and in-progress features. ( cw_utilities_2016.pdf)


CoastWatch Data Analysis Tool: Software Design Review, presented to the CoastWatch Program Manager, central operations team, and node operations managers, January 2008. Topics covered: proposed software design including simplified user interface, data aggregation, 4D-aware interface, tile mode and animation support, and geographic feature support.


The CoastWatch Data Analysis Tool: Status and Future, presented at the CoastWatch Node Managers Meeting, August 2008, Victoria, BC. Topics covered: history of CDAT and its ongoing development, new features in release 3.2.2, current user stats, future release ideas.


The CoastWatch Utilities: Ten Years in the Making, presented at the CoastWatch Operations Managers Meeting, June 2007, Annapolis, Maryland. Topics covered: General information about the utilities, features and statistics for the current release (3.2.1), ideas for future releases.

Ad-hoc Processing with the CoastWatch Utilities, presented at the CoastWatch Operations Managers Meeting, June 2007, Annapolis, Maryland. Topics covered: Extracting information from data files (metadata, statistics, sampling), data processing (reprojection, math), custom code (data interfaces, file interfaces).

CoastWatch Data in Google Earth: A How-to Guide, presented at the CoastWatch Operations Managers Meeting, June 2007, Annapolis, Maryland. Topics covered: Google Earth features in comparison to CDAT, preparing data images and markup code, demonstration with AVHRR swath and GOES SST data.


The CoastWatch Utilities Version 3.2: CoastWatch Data Made Easy, presented at the CoastWatch Node Managers Meeting, October 2005, Pacific Grove, California. Topics covered: Common tasks performed by the utilities, types of documentation available, details on software development (requirements and users), demonstration (not included).


The CoastWatch Utilities Version 3, presented at the CoastWatch Node Managers Meeting, October 2003, Glen Arbor, Michigan. Topics covered: Software requirements (website, research, product development), implementation details (survey of all utilities), future work to be done.

The CoastWatch Data Analysis Tool, presented at the CoastWatch Node Managers Meeting, October 2003, Glen Arbor, Michigan. Topics covered: Target user groups, functionality (data import/export, display, annotation, statistics, preferences), demonstration (not included), future work to be done.

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