The ocean is a challenging environment to study. Until recently, oceanographers received only brief glimpses of conditions under the water, and this view was limited to just the water immediately under a research vessel.
The last 30 years have seen an explosion in the amount of data coming from the ocean. Satellites provide daily updates on conditions at the surface of the ocean, and networks of buoys provide minute-by-minute information on conditions under the surface. Newer technologies like gliders, drifters, and even drones are expanding our view even further.
However, this data is useless unless it can be accessed by people who need it.
We are working with an international community to develop data standards and protocols that allow people and computer programs to quickly access these large, complex data sets. This makes it possible for fishermen, sailors, surfers, and scientists to instantly see what conditions are like on or in the water. We are also pioneering new approaches to visualize the information in these datasets, allowing people to quickly see patterns and to get answers to their questions. This includes using computer models to produce forecasts and other “value-added” products.