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The Marine Modeling and Analysis Programs (MMAP) together with the Cartographic and Geospatial Technology Programs (CGTP) branch of the Coast Survey Development Laboratory has developed a web mapping portal to real-time coastal observations and NOAA forecasts called nowCOAST.
  •   nowCOAST

NowCOAST  provides NOAA users with a centralized, one-stop access to on-line, real-time coastal environmental data, imagery, and NOAA forecasts for any region in the coastal United States.  NowCOAST provides users with interactive maps depicting latest surface weather and ocean observations, NOAA satellite cloud imagery, and a NWS weather radar reflectivity mosaic.  These map displays are dependent on data streams provided by the NESDIS Satellite Services Division, NWS Meteorological Development Lab, and NOAA Research Global Systems Division Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System.

 This is a screen capture of a nowCast customized map viewer showing satellite pictures of U.S. and coatal waters.

 nowCOAST customized map viewer

In addition, the portal provides geo-referenced hyperlinks to thousands of websites providing real-time observations from meteorological, oceanographic, river, and water quality observing networks as well as NOAA forecast products from the top of the watershed to the high seas.

NowCOAST is designed to be a planning aid for recreational and commercial mariners, coastal managers, HAZMAT responders, marine educators, and researchers to discover and display real-time coastal information.  NowCOAST runs continuously and is routinely monitored during regular business days on weekdays.

Portal Description and Development
NowCOAST uses Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to manage the storage and Web display of its geospatial observations, imagery, and forecast information. Specifically, the portal uses Arc Internet Map Server (ArcIMS) combined with Dynamic HTML (DHTML) and Java Web Enterprise Edition (J2EE) Web programming technologies, including Java Servlets and Java ServerPages for its dynamic GIS mapping capability.  NowCOAST is built upon the Java Connector API for ArcIMS, allowing for customization of the map functionality and appearance.  NowCOAST allows on-map display of imagery and surface observations via the connection of the nowCOAST MapService with an Oracle 10g/Arc Spatial Database Engine (ArcSDE) database.  

The nowCOAST portal consists of a custom map viewer and a ‘Databrowser’.  The map interface is based on the Java Connector and is designed to be highly lightweight and fast.  The user is able to interactively specify their exact area of interest as well as the nowCOAST layers to overlay on the map.  The user interface accommodates both the novice and the experienced GIS user.  The ‘Databrowser’ interface integrates directly with the map viewer and allows the user to browse through websites displaying the observations and forecasts that they locate in the map viewer. 


NowCoast screen capture showing screen viewing and data browsing capabilities.  Satellite picture of hurricane hitting Florida east coat with wind weather symbols overlaid on picture.   

 NowCoast's map viewer and Databrowser

NowCOAST contains both on-map displays of near-real-time data and imagery as well as thousands of geo-referenced links to additional observations and NOAA forecast products. 

On-Map Display
The on-map data displays surface meteorological and ocean observations from automated and manual reporting stations at airports, coastal marine platforms, fixed buoys, and ships.   In addition, observations from some regional ocean observing systems are also displayed such as the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System (GoMOOS). The on-map display of surface observations is updated every hour.  NowCOAST also displays two main types of imagery, courtesy of NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS). One of these on-map layers is the Weather Radar Mosaic.  NowCOAST displays the base reflectivity radar data which is updated on nowCOAST every 15 minutes.   The third type of on-map imagery displayed by nowCOAST is NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) cloud imagery. This includes visible and infrared cloud images from both GOES-East and GOES-West. The approximate horizontal resolutions of the GOES visible and infrared images are 1 km (.62 statute mile) and 4 km (2.5 statute mile), respectively. The GOES images are updated on nowCOAST every half hour.

 nowCOAST map viewer displaying NWS radar reflectivity, GOES cloud imagery, and surface wind barbs (speed and direction) for Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005.

Geo-Referenced Hyperlinks
NowCOAST also provides geo-referenced links to web pages posting real-time in-situ and remotely-sensed observations of weather, ocean, river, and water quality conditions. These include observations from both federal networks as well as land mesonets and regional ocean observing systems. Many of the surface meteorological observations links are shown in the hourly on-map display of observations but the links also include observations not available via the on-map display. In addition, nowCOAST has geo-referenced links to NOAA forecast products including NWS public weather and marine weather text forecasts and forecast discussions, NOAA model forecast point guidance (e.g. wave heights, water levels, surface weather) and NOS astronomical tidal water level predictions based on harmonic constituents.

Support to Other Projects
The nowCOAST development team has received funds from NOAA’s Coastal Storms Program (CSP) Southern California (SoCAL) Pilot Program to provide NOS’ Coastal Services Center (CSC) with access to selected gridded forecasts from the NWS’ National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD) for display on CSC’s Decision Support Hazards Locator Tool (HLT). The HLT is a GIS-based decision-support tool to help state, county, and local emergency managers in Southern California monitor and respond to coastal storms and their associated hazards. The initial requirements for the HLT have been determined based on online survey results and user feedback provided at two CSC workshops in Los Angeles and San Diego, CA during January 2006 (CSC, 2006). The users requested that the proposed decision-support tool be able to integrate real-time weather and NDFD forecasts with the HLT. Selected weather data, imagery, and NDFD forecasts is made available to CSC via an ArcIMS Image Service.

The nowCOAST team is also partnering with the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to provide access to selected NOAA data and imagery to support NGA’s Palanterra, a secure, Web-enabled common operational picture (COP) data viewer, or portal. The portal allows authorized personnel to see in near-real-time spatial information about current situations as well as security events as they happen. Palanterra uses data sets obtained from a NGA-USGS collaboration formed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to identify and obtain geospatial and other critical infrastructure information to meet the requirements of defense and homeland security organizations. Presently, the unclassified but restricted Palanterra system is used by over 300 users in various federal agencies across the U.S. NowCOAST will provide near-real-time weather and ocean information to NGA via its Image Service.

For additional information about nowCOAST, please see http://nowcoast.noaa.gov/help/intro.shtml.

Image Map Web Service
NowCOAST provides access to some of its map images via an ArcIMS Image Service. The image service allows users to connect to nowCOAST’s ArcIMS map server, browse the services on the server, and deliver graphical images or ‘snapshots’ of the latest surface observations, GOES imagery, or NWS radar mosaic to the users’ GIS desktop mapping application. The user adds the nowCOAST’s image service as a new layer in his or hers desktop mapping application by accessing the URL http://nowcoast.noaa.gov.

An OGC compliant Web Map Service (WMS) will be established in the future.

nowCOAST Development Team

John G. W. Kelley, Project Manager

Jason Greenlaw, Primary Developer

Carmen St. Jean,  Developer

Micah Wengren, Advisor

For additional information, please email the development team at nowcoast.team@noaa.gov.

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