World Hydrography Day

Coast Survey Celebrates World Hydrography Day

World Hydrography Day Logo

You may be surprised to learn how much hydrography matters in our everyday lives. Over a billion metric tons of cargo move in and out of our nation's ports annually. How do we keep our nation's marine transportation system functioning in a safe, efficient, and environmentally sound manner? Hydrography. Hydrography underpins marine activities, including economic development, security and defense, scientific research, and environmental protection.

The International Hydrographic Bureau was established in 1921, later becoming the International Hydrographic Organization. In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/60/30, recognizing the establishment of World Hydrography Day by the International Hydrographic Organization. This day provides Coast Survey the opportunity to recognize the great work that hydrographers in NOAA and other organizations do to keep our nation's waterways safe, our economy strong, and our communities resilient.

World Hydrography Day 2024

This year's theme: Hydrographic Information - Enhancing Safety, Efficiency and Sustainability in Marine Activities

International standards and the link to Precision Marine Navigation

Precision marine navigation is the ability of a vessel to safely and efficiently navigate and operate in close proximity to the seafloor, narrow channels, or other hazards. NOAA's Precision Marine Navigation program supports a one-stop-shop for marine navigation data. This includes forecasts, real-time observations, warnings/advisories, and high resolution bathymetry. The program is built on the foundation of the International Hydrographic Organization's S-100 Universal Hydrographic Data Model which provides a framework of components that enables the building of standardized product specifications for hydrographic data modeling, thus providing true interoperability between varying data standards and systems. Coast Survey is actively engaged in the work of the IHO's technical program under the Hydrographic Services and Standards Committee, including chairing the S-100 working group. This year represents an important year for the IHO in the finalization of several S-100 based product specifications for electronic navigational charts, bathymetric surface, water level information for surface navigation, and surface currents. In parallel, Coast Survey is also working on building test and development products within the suite of S-100 based products and releases them via our precision marine navigation website. Read more

NOAA implements new standards for hydrographic survey and product specifications

The Hydrographic Survey Specifications and Deliverables document contains the technical specifications for hydrographic survey data submitted to the Office of Coast Survey. It represents NOAA's implementation of the International Hydrographic Organization standards for hydrographic survey and product specifications. Coast Survey is proud to announce the launch of the new Hydrographic Survey Specifications and Deliverables for 2024, the largest overhaul of the document in more than 20 years. Read more

Building areas of seamless, high-resolution bathymetric data

The National Bathymetric Source program creates and maintains high-resolution bathymetry composed of the best available data. This program enables the creation of next-generation nautical charts while also providing support for modeling, industry, science, regulation, and public curiosity. Read more

Vessel pilots use data layer to assist with navigation

NOAA's Precision Marine Navigation program aims to seamlessly integrate high-resolution bathymetry and high accuracy positioning and shoreline data with the forecast data of water levels, currents, waves, and weather forecasts. This information can be easily accessed and integrated into maritime electronic charting systems and other decision support tools so mariners can plan their transits and make decisions while at sea and coming to and from port. A key component of this program is providing vessel pilots with detailed depth information to ensure safety of vessel transits and that critical under keel clearance safety margins are maintained.

In April 2024, the cargo vessel M/V Dali allided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge resulting in the collapse of several sections of the bridge into the main channel leading into Baltimore Harbor. As multiple salvage and survey operations occurred the following month, NOAA was able to provide the bathymetric data layer at the request of the Baltimore Pilots for situational awareness. This data proved crucial to local pilots navigating within the main and temporary channels through the site, and was made available to the public—the bathymetry layer, or BlueTopo, is available on nowCoast, and the bathymetric surface data is available on the AWS S3 Explorer here and here.

New ocean mapping center expands NOAA, University of New Hampshire partnership

NOAA and the University of New Hampshire are expanding a 24-year ocean and Great Lakes mapping partnership through the creation of a new Center of Excellence for Operational Ocean and Great Lakes Mapping. The Center of Excellence will focus on the following priorities:

  • Delivering practical hydrographic training and fostering workforce development for ocean mapping operations.
  • Providing technical expertise and systems support for NOAA's mapping operations on an increasingly diverse set of platforms, including new ships and uncrewed survey vessels.
  • Partnering with academia and industry to transition ocean mapping research to operations.

Ocean mapping data is the basis for researching, exploring and characterizing our nation's ocean, coasts and Great Lakes in order to support maritime commerce, transportation and emergency response activities. Ocean and Great Lakes mapping provides foundational data for a wide range of key NOAA priorities, including modeling and forecasting water levels, currents, storm surge and tsunami inundation; fisheries habitat identification; marine protected area site selection and management; and environmentally sound offshore energy development. Read more

Chesapeake Bay and Albemarle Sound surveys collect data with multiple uses

The southwestern Chesapeake Bay watershed which includes the Potomac, Rappahannock, James, and York Rivers, is home to millions of people living in a range of environments from rural farmland to heavily populated regions such as the District of Columbia and Hampton Roads, Virginia. These rivers support diverse commercial and recreational interests ranging from recreational boating and fishing to industries such as aquaculture and commercial fishing, water treatment plants, and major port facilities. During NOAA's 2023 field survey season, NOAA's navigation response teams including R/V BayHydro II, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson and survey contractors eTrac and Geodynamics, performed hydrographic surveys throughout southwestern Chesapeake Bay and Albemarle Sound in North Carolina.

These surveys, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, are primarily intended to support high resolution models for storm surge inundation and flooding. However, the data collected from these surveys will serve many purposes. It will be used to update nautical charts and products, and will provide forecasters at NOAA's National Water Center with bathymetric data for critical hydrodynamic modeling. It will be used to update NOAA National Ocean Service charts and products, and will provide forecasters at NOAA's National Water Center with bathymetric data for critical hydrodynamic modeling necessary to understand timing and impact of rapid river stage increases and decreases, the duration of high water, inundation, or drought. The data will also be used to characterize seabed habitat to help manage a healthy and sustainable seafood industry, and will inform best preservation practices for the operating and conserving maritime historic and cultural resources of the Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary.

World Hydrography Day 2023

This year's theme: Hydrography - Underpinning the Digital Twin of the Ocean

NOAA Releases 2023 hydrographic survey season plans

NOAA hydrographic survey ships, navigation response teams, and contractors are preparing for the 2023 hydrographic survey season. The ships and survey vessels collect bathymetric data (i.e. map the seafloor) to support nautical charting, modeling, and research, but also collect other environmental data to support a variety of ecosystem sciences. NOAA considers hydrographic survey requests from stakeholders such as marine pilots, local port authorities, the Coast Guard, and the boating community, and also considers other hydrographic and NOAA science priorities in determining where to survey and when. Visit our "living" ArcGIS StoryMap to find out more about our mapping projects and if a hydrographic vessel will be in your area this year! Read more

3D Nation Study report, website, and StoryMap now available

A new StoryMap on the 3D Nation Elevation Requirements and Benefits Study, which was published in September 2022, is now available. Sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and conducted by Dewberry, the 3D Nation Study documents nationwide requirements and benefits of 3D elevation data both on land and under water. The study also estimates the costs associated with meeting these requirements and evaluates multiple scenarios for enhancing national elevation mapping programs. Read more

The Interagency Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping announces progress report on mapping U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters

The federal Interagency Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IWG-OCM) has released the fourth annual report on progress made in mapping U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters. Knowledge of the depth, shape, and composition of the seafloor has far-reaching benefits, including safer navigation, hazard mitigation for coastal resilience, preservation of marine habitats and heritage, and a deeper understanding of natural resources for sustainable ocean economies. The 2020 National Strategy for Mapping, Exploring, and Characterizing the United States Exclusive Economic Zone (NOMEC) and the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project make comprehensive ocean mapping a priority for the coming decade. The Unmapped U.S. Waters report tracks progress toward these important goals. Read more

Surveying beyond navigation

Hydro International interviewed RDML Benjamin Evans, director of NOAA's Office of Coast Survey. Evans is responsible for overseeing the mapping and charting of all US coastal waters, as well as representing the US in international hydrographic activities. Evans talked to Hydro International about staff shortages, challenges in surveying remote parts of the US and deploying new technology: "The sheer scale of the task before us to survey US waters to modern standards is absolutely enormous. The US EEZ is almost four million square miles and we have mapped approximately half of that to modern standards, so we have a long way to go." Read more

Empowering women in hydrography through at-sea experience

The Empowering Women in Hydrography project is a global effort led by the International Hydrographic Organization and Canada that seeks to initiate, organize and track a series of activities and initiatives which will enable more women to participate equitably in the field of hydrography and to assume leadership roles within the hydrographic community. NOAA is contributing to the project via an 'at-sea experience' on NOAA hydrographic ships for three women each year over the four year lifespan of the project. After a global call for nominations, three women were selected to join NOAA ships for the 2022 survey season. Part one Part two Part three

NOAA ocean mapping and reef surveys in American Samoa and Pacific Remote Islands

World Hydrography Day 2022

This year's theme: Hydrography - contributing to the United Nations Ocean Decade

Marine Navigation Website

New NOAA website provides marine navigation resources in a central location

NOAA's Precision Marine Navigation program website will improve the use and accessibility of NOAA's marine navigation products and services. The website includes links and short descriptions to NOAA's various navigation resources, providing a one-stop shop that mariners can visit to get the data they need. Designed for shipping professionals and recreational boaters alike, the program hopes the website will become a valuable tool to support all mariners in their navigation planning and decision making processes. Read More

NOAA Ship Rainier

NOAA ocean mapping and reef surveys in the Mariana Islands

On March 26, 2022, NOAA Ship Rainier set sail from Honolulu, Hawaii on a 3,307-nautical mile expedition to the Western Pacific. This collaborative mission between NOAA's National Ocean Service and National Marine Fisheries Service will deliver high-quality data, data products, and tools to the region including a seamless map linking hilltops to underwater depths and integrated data on the surrounding coral reef ecosystems. Read more

Global ESTOFS Upgrade

Model Upgrade: Global Extratropical Surge and Tide Operational Forecast System Upgraded to Version Two

In late July 2021, the Global Extratropical Surge and Tide Operational Forecast System (Global ESTOFS) upgrade to version two was implemented into operations. The modeling system provides forecast guidance for combined water levels caused by storm surge and tides globally. The forecast guidance from the model is used by forecasters at NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) and the Ocean Prediction Center to generate their storm surge and flood forecasts during storms, including Nor'easters along the U.S. East Coast. Read more

McMurdo Station

Coast Survey's mobile integrated survey team goes to Antarctica
By, Annie Raymond

From November 25, 2021 to February 11, 2022, the Office of Coast Survey, Navigation Response Branch team members traveled aboard the U.S. Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star to McMurdo Station on Ross Island, Antarctica. The Polar Star's primary mission involves cutting a channel through the ice and clearing the way for supply vessels to reach McMurdo Station. The Coast Survey team joined the regular mission in order to conduct a hydrographic survey of Winter Quarters Bay at McMurdo in support of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science project. Read more

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

NOAA focuses on the Great Lakes for the 2022 field season

In 2022, NOAA's Office of Coast Survey and National Ocean Service scientists will be conducting multiple hydrographic mapping missions in the Great Lakes aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. These missions, along with the navigation response teams and contracted assets, will support critical updates to marine navigation products and services, and provide modern data to the scientific and benthic mapping communities. Read more

BlueTopo Logo

BlueTopo webpage is now live

The Office of Coast Survey's new BlueTopo webpage provides information and access to a compilation of the nation's best available bathymetric data. BlueTopo is unique in its acute attention to datum control, ability to account for changes in data quality over time, and method of compilation according to data quality metrics. Primary sources of bathymetry include NOAA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hydrographic surveys and topographic bathymetric (topo-bathy) LiDAR (light detection and ranging) data. Read more

Coast Survey's Hurricane Ida response

NOAA Hurricane Ida Response

World Hydrography Day 2021

This year's theme: One-hundred years of international cooperation in hydrography

Global image of unmapped areas.

Surveying in the Strait of Juan de Fuca during a global pandemic
By Ensign Jessie Spruill and Hydrographic Senior Survey Technician Simon Swart, NOAA Ship Fairweather

Last Thanksgiving, the crew of NOAA Ship Fairweather were busy surveying in one of the country's busiest waterways. A global maritime entryway to the Pacific Northwest, the Strait of Juan de Fuca sees over 8,000 transits of deep-draft container ships, cargo and chemical carriers, oil tankers, and barges coming to and from Puget Sound and Canada. Read More

Global image of unmapped areas.

The Interagency Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping announces progress report on mapping U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters

The Interagency Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IWG-OCM) released the second annual report on the progress made in mapping U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters. Read more

Global image of unmapped areas.

By the Numbers: Coast Survey's 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season

As the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season came to a close on November 30, NOAA's Office of Coast Survey tallied a few numbers to see what the combined response effort of the navigation response teams, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, and hydrographic survey contractor David Evans & Associates, Inc., looked like. Read more

Global image of unmapped areas.

Model Upgrade: Extratropical Surge & Tide Operational Forecast System (ESTOFS) is Now Global

On November 24, an upgrade to Global ESTOFS was implemented to provide NWS forecasters with high resolution water level forecast guidance including storm tide (storm surge plus tides) for the entire globe. Global ESTOFS forecast guidance will be used by forecasters at WFOs and the Ocean Prediction Center (OPC) to generate their storm surge forecasts during winter storms including Nor'easters along the U.S. East Coast. Read more

Global image of unmapped areas.

World Hydrography Day - Recognizing the importance of hydrography work being done around the world
By Rear Adm. Rick Brennan

It's June so that means kids are out of school for the summer, parents are dreaming of a little family vacation, and if it's June 21 it means it is World Hydrography Day. On November 29, 2005, the United Nations adopted Resolution A/60/30, which "welcomes the adoption by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) of the World Hydrography Day with the aim of increasing the coverage of hydrographic information on a global basis." Read more

World Hydrography Day 2020

This year's theme: Hydrography - enabling autonomous technologies

Global image of unmapped areas.

A message to hydrographers: Your time is now
By Rear Adm. Shep Smith, Director, Office of Coast Survey

There has never been a better time to be a hydrographer. Our skills, data, and technology are in high demand globally, driven by an increased emphasis both on supporting the blue economy and of protecting the ocean upon which all life on earth depends. Read more

Image of puzzle piece with surface currents inside.

Precision marine navigation surface current dissemination trials
By Erin Nagel, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Visiting Scientist

NOAA is preparing to release a prototype of the new Precision Navigation Data Dissemination System in July, and the S-111 surface current forecast guidance will be the first prototype service available in this new system. Read more

HD chart of berthing space in the Port of Long Beach.

High-definition charts advance precision marine navigation
By Craig Winn, HD Charting Portfolio Manager

For large vessels entering port where there is next to zero margin for error, pilots and shipmasters are looking for the highest resolution data available to help them navigate these tight spaces safely and efficiently. Read more


Webinar recording: An autonomous approach to ocean mapping: A Saildrone, USM, and NOAA collaboration
In 2019, the University of Southern Mississippi, NOAA's Office of Coast Survey, and Saildrone began a collaboration to test the accuracy and longevity of the Saildrone platform for shallow-water multibeam bathymetry in an effort to develop new technologies to address gaps in ocean mapping and exploration in the U.S. EEZ. During this webinar, the project partners discuss the origins of the project, the technology innovation and the achievements of the first year of collaboration, and a preview of future development plans. (transcript forthcoming)

Glen Rice

Coast Survey spotlight: Meet Glen Rice
Glen is the technical team lead for NOAA's National Bathymetric Source Project. Critical to our national infrastructure, this project aims to serve the best available bathymetry to support NOAA, other federal agencies, and the public. Read more

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson with DriX autonomous surface vessel.

Video: World Hydrography Day 2020
It's World Hydrography Day! Today we recognize the great work that hydrographers in NOAA and other organizations do to keep our waterways safe, our economy and blue economy strong, and our communities resilient.

World Hydrography Day 2019

This year's theme: Hydrographic information driving marine knowledge

NOAA Coast Survey Ocean Mapping Capablities document cover

Ocean Mapping Capabilities
Coast Survey's seafloor mapping program comprises a comprehensive set of capabilities that range from not just data collection, but rigorous quality control, an expert workforce, and ability to collaborate widely. Learn more about our ocean mapping capabilities.

Kurt Mueller

Coast Survey spotlight: Meet Kurt Mueller
As a physical scientist and eleven-year veteran of Coast Survey, Kurt Mueller works to ensure that hydrographic data coming from NOAA ships, as well as other data from external agencies, meets the rigid standards required to build an accurate and reliable nautical chart. Read more

World Hydrography Day 2018

This year's theme: Bathymetry - the foundation for sustainable seas, oceans and waterways

Gulf of Mexico

From seaports to the deep blue sea, bathymetry matters on many scales
By Rear Adm. Shep Smith, Director, Office of Coast Survey

On Thursday, June 21, we celebrate World Hydrography Day. This year's theme - Bathymetry - the foundation for sustainable seas, oceans and waterways - is very timely as many hydrographic organizations worldwide are focusing on bathymetry at local and global scales... Read more

Gulf of Mexico

World Hydrography Day Reddit "Ask Us Anything"
Join us on Thursday, June 21, 2018, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (EDT) for a Reddit "Ask Us Anything" featuring Rear Adm. Smith, director of the Office of Coast Survey and Lt. Cmdr. Greenaway, chief of Coast Survey's Hydrographic Systems and Technology Branch as they answer your questions on how NOAA maps the U.S. seafloor.

Starla Robinson

Coast Survey spotlight: Meet Starla Robinson
Starla Robinson was drawn to Coast Survey by her desire for adventure on the high seas, exploration, and also a desire to balance it with time on land. As a physical scientist, she plans, coordinates, and communicates the details of hydrographic survey projects. Read more

bathymetric data sources infographic

Creating a picture of the seafloor: Bathymetric data sources
From lidar and hydrographic survey data to remote sensing and crowdsourced data, NOAA uses data from many sources to obtain accurate depths of the seafloor and to update nautical charts. Click the image for a larger view.

Brian Martinez

Coast Survey spotlight: Meet Brian Martinez
After graduating with a bachelor of science degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Brian landed a job as a contractor for Coast Survey and has been there ever since. As a lead cartographer, Brian ensures that the nautical products Coast Survey updates and maintains are high quality. Read more

multiple uses of bathymetric data infographic

Multiple uses of bathymetric data
The value of bathymetric data extends beyond navigational products. Fisheries management, military and defense efforts, and our knowledge of tides, ocean circulation patterns, and underwater geohazards can all be informed by bathymetric data. Learn more from this infographic.