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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration



Part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration mission is “to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources”. NOAA’s reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as they work to keep the public informed of the changing environment around them.

From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and marine commerce, NOAA’s products and services save lives, protect property and support economic vitality. Geospatial data and technologies are indispensable to these efforts, whether it is providing high-resolution coastal imagery mapping services immediately after a hurricane to support emergency response, or raster nautical chart data to assist in offshore energy project siting. NOAA could not meet its mission without GIS.

Strategically, NOAA uses the power of GIS technology to help achieve its mission, including sharing geospatial datasets with a variety of stakeholders and the general public. NOAA is a leader in the federal geospatial community, providing access to its authoritative data as standards-compliant mapping services, which accelerates its use across a broad spectrum of users. Consumers of NOAA’s GIS products are a diverse community, including coastal and fisheries management organizations, the insurance and reinsurance industry, engineering and mapping firms, and the weather industry.

Users of NOAA’s GIS products routinely say that access to these data and tools increases the efficiency and effectiveness of their work. For example, NOAA’s Digital Coast platform is focused on helping communities address coastal issues, such a sea level rise and flooding, and has become one of the most-used resources in the coastal management community. The dynamic Digital Coast Partnership, whose members represent the website’s primary user groups, keeps the effort focused on customer needs.

Nominee’s Achievements

Part of NOAA’s mission is to share its data with stakeholders and decision-makers, including a significant amount of geospatial data. NOAA’s data, maps and services help local communities plan and prepare for environmental disasters and severe weather, including oil spills, hurricanes, floods and drought. They also help states and their communities keep infrastructure safe during these  events. NOAA’s leadership is evident through the geospatial solutions they offer through their line offices, such as:

  • Satellite and Information Service (NESDIS)
    • The Satellite Service maintains the Okeanos Explorer Atlas which displays near-real-time observations and location information and daily products for expeditions conducted aboard the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer.
    • The CoRIS (Coral Reef Information System) provides access to NOAA coral reef information and data products with emphasis on the U.S. states, territories, and remote island areas.
  • NOAA Fisheries (NMFS)
    • NMFS supports coastal and marine communities in identifying important habitats for fish and protected species in in state and federal waters.
    • NMFS scientists use advanced geospatial processing techniques to analyze fish distributions in order to inform fisheries management policy decisions.
  • National Ocean Service (NOS)
    • The Environmental Response Management Application, ERMA, aggregates data for visualization, and dissemination during an emergency response, natural resource damage assessments, or restoration planning. Its online map interface allows quick access to data such as Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps, ship locations, weather, and ocean currents, and more, for environmental responders and decision makers.
    • NOS is the authoritative source for a full range of electronic nautical chart data and services used by the marine transportation community for precision navigation in support of our national economy.
    • The Marine Cadastre, an integrated marine information system that provides data, tools, and technical support for ocean and Great Lakes
  • National Weather Service (NWS)
    • NWS has dramatically increased the number of mapping services over the past three years which are critical to a wide range of users from the emergency management community to the private weather and insurance sectors. The nowCOAST application, owned by NOS and hosted by NWS, is a primary visualization and service distribution platform for observation and weather GIS products.
    • NWS is developing the National Water Model which will substantially increase the number of forecast points for inland flood modeling forecasts.

Significance of Nominees Contributions

Every day, NOAA’s GIS contributions are used across the industry and government to support efficient, evidence-based decision making.  Everyone from the general public to   planners to public safety and emergency management leaders can access real-time, reliable information from NOAA, most of which is available in open, geospatial formats.  NOAA’s dedicated scientists, data managers and GIS analysts use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide the public, planners, and other decision makers with reliable information they need when they need it. 


  • Crystal Stiles, Applied Climatologist and Assistant Geoscientist, High Plains Regional Climate Center:  At the High Plains Regional Climate Center, we serve to increase the use and availability of climate data and information. One of the ways we do that is through our most popular product, the Applied Climate Information System (ACIS) climate summary maps. These maps incorporate near-real-time temperature and precipitation data from multiple networks and are produced for a variety of time scales and regions. However, despite the wide range of maps we offer, we still often get requests for custom maps, as well as the data used for the maps for various applications. Recently, the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), a program of NOAA, provided funding for the Center to deliver the data for the climate summary maps in GIS formats. In doing so, this allows our stakeholders to make use of the data for their particular sector. In the context of drought, the data can be better utilized by stakeholders for drought monitoring and early warning. The project also provides funding for outreach to partners and the public to ensure the data are disseminated widely. Through these types of projects, it is clear that NOAA understands the importance of the application of GIS with regard to climate data and information.
  • Stuart Foster, Director of the Kentucky Climate Center and Kentucky Mesonet:  NOAA’s commitment to GIS has helped to transform the communication of information within the weather and climate community, as evidenced by the wide variety of NOAA products that are now available to users in GIS-compatible formats. The addition of the temporal dimension within the traditional framework of GIS helped to trigger innovative solutions for communicating the dynamic element of atmospheric processes. The ability to work across geographic scales, from the local scale upward, is critical for the effective summary, analysis, and communication of data and information. Therein, NOAA’s embrace of GIS technology has helped to advance the development of weather and climate services in both the public and private sectors.
  • Ashley Hitt, Director of GIS Services, Connected Nation:  For data nerds like me, NOAA makes so much content available for download and independent geospatial analysis that we can continue to develop new ways to enhance community planning and response. In the broadband mapping arena, we depend on NOAA’s climate and active weather alert information as we plan mobile wireless drive testing and field validation site visits to test the availability of broadband services and confirm unserved/underserved areas. Our engineering teams, who are often in rural and remote parts of the US, use NOAA data frequently to make plans as well as change plans on the fly as needed to maintain safe driving and field testing.

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