Frequently Asked Questions

Our goal is to develop collaborative relationships with existing polar programs. We plan to leverage existing collaborations with NOAA's NCEI Arctic Team and members of the National Snow and Ice Data Center to ensure PolarWatch is a complimentary service to existing national polar data services and portals. In this pilot effort, we will engage with users to determine data needs. Identified key users include NOAA Fisheries Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division (AERD), the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) and the National Ice Center. We also look forward to working with others engaged in polar data distribution and integration to help ensure PolarWatch provides needed data and that data are interoperable with their data systems.

PolarWatch builds upon and leverages the existing NOAA CoastWatch/OceanWatch program.

The following personnel comprise the core group for PolarWatch:  Dr. Sinead Farrell, the Project Scientist, has expertise in remote sensing of the Earth's polar regions for marine geophysics and cryospheric investigations and also serves as Science Team lead in STAR’s Satellite Oceanography and Climatology Division (SOCD); Dr. Cara Wilson, the Project PI, is also PI of CoastWatch’s West Coast Regional Node (WCRN) and has expertise in increasing user engagement for satellite data; Jenn Sevadjian (Patterson), the Operations Manager, has extensive experience in web development and data management; and Dale Robinson, an active consultant to the project, is the CoastWatch WCRN operations manager and has experience with satellite observations in the polar regions.  

A broader team of ocean remote sensing experts in STAR/SOCD (e.g., for sea surface height, sea surface temperature, ocean color et al.), led by Dr. Paul DiGiacomo, are involved in the development of data sets for PolarWatch.  Dr. DiGiacomo is the overall Program Manager for CoastWatch/OceanWatch (as well as PolarWatch) and the capabilities of these complementary programs will be significantly leveraged as well.

The primary goals of PolarWatch are to enable data discovery and broader use of high-latitude ocean remote sensing datasets. PolarWatch aims to provide additional satellite data to existing and emerging Arctic and Antarctic data portals. Our goal is to build upon relationships with NOAA's NCEI Arctic Team and the National Snow and Ice Data Center to help ensure PolarWatch is a complimentary service to existing efforts. In addition to providing data in the Arctic, the scope of PolarWatch also includes coverage of Antarctic waters and the broader Southern Ocean.

PolarWatch will support users by providing data discovery tools for finding data in addition to tools and training for working with satellite data. Data will be made available over standard services for inclusion in other portals. PolarWatch will provide a ‘one stop shopping’ location for a suite of Arctic and Antarctic oceanographic satellite data products.  The products will be available in file formats that are well suited for modern analysis tools, accessible via a common protocol, and fully documented following established metadata standards.  Examples of accessing and working with data will be created for users not accustomed to working with satellite remote sensing data. PolarWatch will draw off the successful experiences the WCRN has had distributing satellite and other data products to a wide variety of users.

The SWFSC has a long association with groups serving the polar regions and with the NOAA CoastWatch/OceanWatch program based in NESDIS/STAR. The Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division (AERD) is part of SWFSC. The regional responsibilities of the CoastWatch West Coast Regional Node (housed within SWFSC) have expanded in recent years to include the polar and subpolar seas surrounding Alaska, creating opportunities to work with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

The satellite data we will include will be determined by the needs of PolarWatch users, in particular working with our liaisons at the AERD, the AFSC, and the NIC. Generally, data will be provided for both the Arctic and Antarctic regions and will include historical and near-real-time data. While our initial targeted users are from NMFS and STAR, we hope to serve a much wider user base and welcome feedback from all potential users. If you have additional available data you would like to recommend please send us your suggestions.

Initially, parameters will include sea surface temperature (SST), wind speed, sea ice concentration, sea ice thickness, sea ice velocity, sea ice type, and ocean color. Parameters included will not be limited and will be determined by user need and data availability.

Based on diverse user needs, PolarWatch will serve both near-real-time data and science quality (i.e., delayed mode) data.  Whenever possible, we will include the full temporal range of the science quality dataset.  The data system will include data updated in the range of hours to months to years, depending on the data product. Minimizing data latency in all products will remain a priority.

Data will be provided for both the Arctic and Antarctic regions with the spatial boundaries determined by user needs. Data visualization products in polar projections can extend as far as 45° (both N and S) so we are considering using this as an outer threshold for data served through PolarWatch, but we expect to focus on bringing in higher latitude data first, based on user needs.  In the case of global datasets, PolarWatch will provide links to data providers for data access and visualization outside of this domain.

We will be able to accept both unprojected data and data in any projection. We will display data in web maps with specific Arctic and Antarctic projections. Data will be distributed in a variety of projections based on user needs.

Initially, PolarWatch will serve gridded data products (Level 3 and Level 4). Additional data product levels included will be determined on a case by case basis based on user requests, and may potentially include Level 2 data. Learn more about product levels.

The primary focus of PolarWatch will be on remote sensing data relevant to the polar oceans and coasts. However, this scope could expand in the future to include associated and ancillary data, such as model output, climatologies and in situ data for validation et al., based on the needs of the PolarWatch user community.

A goal of PolarWatch is to provide data access which will enable product development. We hope that early engagement with users will help determine critical data product needs. PolarWatch plans to provide temporally composited data products, e.g. generating multi-day or monthly averaged datasets from daily data.  We also plan to engage with users in 2017 to evaluate product needs and plan to move forward with user-driven product development as funding allows in future years.