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DYNAMIC OCEANS:  A science activity using SST and depth ocean water temperatures


INTRODUCTION:  This page provides links to downloadable Google Earth files (.KLM and .KMZ) designed to be used by educators desiring to develop earth science lessons addressing ocean temperature and its importance to environmental and climate science. These files, links, and instructions were developed as part of NODC staff participation with other scientists and education professionals during the course of the Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE)* workshop May 18-May 23, 2007. The focus of the workshop is to bridge the gap between educators and data holders through the creation of online chapters for the Earth Exploration Toolbook*. The Earth Exploration Toolbook is a collection of computer-based Earth science lessons. Each lesson, or chapter, introduces one or more data sets and an analysis tool that enables users to explore some aspect of the Earth system. Step-by-step instructions in each chapter walk users through a case study in which they access data and use the featured tool to explore issues or concepts in Earth system science. In the course of completing a chapter, users produce and analyze maps, graphs, images, or other data products. The ultimate goal of each activity is to build users' skills and confidence in order to encourage further use of environmental data in their own investigations of the Earth system. The workshop combines teams of data representatives with online tool experts, educators, and others to fashion a chapter during the course of the workshop.

The central feature of this activity is the .KMZ file created by Drs. Kenneth Casey (Lead, NODC Satellite Oceanography Team), Charles Sun (Lead, NODC Global ARGO Data Repository, and Ted Habermann (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center), which allows both high resolution SST images and ARGO float locations and associated water temperature profile data from April 2006-2008 to be pulled into Google Earth simultaneously (see graphic below). An additional link to a .KMZ file from the International ARGO Float Information Centre* is also provided. This activity was designed to facilitate discussions of the importance of ocean water temperature by using data collected both at the surface and at depth. For specific details regarding this earth science activity, educators should refer to the corresponding chapter in the Earth Exploration Toolbook.

Image of SST and depth data loaded into Google Earth


1)  The KLM/KLZ* files offered on this page are designed to be imported into Google Earth*; a free version is available at:*.

2) Download the file "TheOceanToday.kmz" to a drive or directory on your computer by right-clicking here and selecting "Save Link As...". The .KMZ extension indicates compressed KML files and associated files. It is recognized by GoogleEarth - you do not need to uncompress the file for Google Earth™ to read it!

3). Open Google Earth. From the top left menu, click File, Open and navigate to your saved "TheOceanToday.kmz" file. The file will then load automatically (this may take a few moments).

4). When correctly loaded, image layers may be turned on and off within Google Earthby clicking the boxes in the Places palette on the left of the screen. You should be able to view the following:

A.  The daily current NCOF Operational Sea Surface Temperature and Sea Ice Analysis (today's SST graphic image), which is retrieved automatically from the National Centre for Ocean Forecasting*.
B.  Archived SST and Sea Ice Analyses (SST graphic images) from the 21st of each month between April 2006 and April 2008. This collection of .PNG graphics is included in the downloadable .KMZ file. With multiple monthly graphics turned on, students should be able to rotate through the layered images using the time scroll bar at the top right and view monthly changes in sea surface temperature throughout the year.
C.   The SST graphics are overlaid by ARGO float locations from the NODC Global ARGO Data Repository at NODC; users can access ARGO data and data plots by clicking on a float point (see inset in above graphic). Current ARGO float locations and archived data from April 2006-2008 are displayed as separate layers. Please see Tip 1 below before using Argo layers in Google Earth™.
D.   An SST temperature bar in degrees Celsius.

*KML (Keyhole Markup Language) is a file format used to display geographic data in an Earth browser, such as Google Earth , Google Maps, and Google Maps for mobile. KML uses a tag-based structure with nested elements and attributes and is based on the XML standard*KML files and their related images (if any) can be compressed using the ZIP format into KMZ archives. KMZ files are compressed collections of one or more files for viewing in Google Earth. They can be opened using any common zip/unzip tool, such as "WinZip" or the default Windows XP Compressed Folders Tool (Windows), "Stuffit" (Mac OS), or "zip" (Mac OS or Linux). You may need to change the file extension from .kmz to .zip to have the file be recognized by a zip tool. Remember to change back to .kmz before using the file in Google Earth. For more information on KML and KMZ files, see the Google Earth documentation pages*.


(1) While TheOceanToday.kmz contains two years of monthly Argo float information, Google Earth is not currently designed to handle such a large volume of data. In order to overcome this problem, turn on only one or two months of Argo data at a time. Where the satellite images are intended to demonstrate global trends of sea surface temperature throughout the year, the Argo profile data is included for use in validating the satellite observations and connecting them to the rest of the water column at individual locations.
(2) When viewing monthly Argo data, keep in mind that the point locations shown on the globe represent individual reports from Argo floats, not the floats themselves. Since most Argo floats will report several times over the course of a month, this means that a month's worth of Argo data will show more locations than there are floats.
(3) When displaying the global satellite SST images, users will notice that all land is white. This is a characteristic of the SST image itself; developers of these images are currently working to resolve this feature and allow Google Earth's Terrain map to be visible.


The ARGO Information Centre* is a source of information on the progress of the Argo project and a component of JCOMMOPS*, JCOMM in-situ Observing Platform Support Centre. Locations of ARGO floats and associated oceanographic data provided by the International ARGO Information Centre may be displayed by loading the International ARGO Information Centre .kmz file as an additional layer. Clicking on ARGO positions from this file displays temperature data as full-color plots with images of the individual profiling float; the file is downloadable from the Argo Information Centre website.

The Digital Library for Earth System Information (DLESE) is a distributed community effort involving educators, students, and scientists working together to improve the quality, quantity, and efficiency of teaching and learning about the Earth system at all levels.

Global ARGO Data Repository: The U.S. National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) serves as the long term archive, also known as the Global Argo Data Repository (GADR), for Argo data. The GADR is responsible for preserving and updating Argo data that are passed to the NODC, often after some reanalysis or corrections have been applied. While the GDACs are established to provide immediate service to all types of users with high speed Internet access, there are other users who will not be able to get the data in this way. The GADR provides alternate means for users to get Argo data and information

The NOAA Education Resources aids students and teachers to access educational activities, publications and booklets produced throughout NOAA.

The NOAA Central Library contains thousands of books, journals, publications and images on a huge range of subjects from the marine and earth sciences to historical interest. User searches are facilitated by WINDandSEA, an Internet guide built in response to the many reference questions that are posed to the library. WINDandSEA is designed to make Internet searching more efficient for the NOAA community, the academic community, other government agencies concerned with oceanic and atmospheric issues, and the general public. Presently WINDandSEA has over 1,000 selected links to science and policy sites organized by topic and alphabetically within topic. All of these sites have been reviewed and annotated by NOAA Central Library and NOAA Regional Libraries staff. In addition, images from the popular NOAA Photo Library are downloadable and can be used freely.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Program: Past, Present, and Future: Since 1990, NOAA's Teacher at Sea program, managed by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, has enabled qualified teachers of kindergarten through college to go to sea aboard NOAA research and survey vessels and work side-by-side with scientists, officers, and crew.

OceanTeacher* is a training resource for data and information management related to oceanography and marine meteorology.

If you have specific questions or would like to request more information, please contact Tess Brandon or Sheri Phillips.


  Last modified:    Fri, 12-Oct-2007 11:10 UTC
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