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Frequently Asked Questions about the
National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)

  1. How do I find data that I submitted?

    Information of this type can only be found using our Archive Collection Search (also accessible using our legacy Ocean Archive System (OAS)), which searches for original datasets as they were submitted to us. See these instructions.

  2. How deep is the ocean?

    The depth of the ocean is remarkably variable, from the surf zones at the world's beaches to the deep ocean trenches. The deepest point in the ocean is generally believed to be in the Marianas Trench in the Western Pacific Ocean at approximately 36,160 feet [11,021 m], according to the Rand McNally Atlas of the Oceans (1977).

  3. Where can I get bathymetry data and bathymetric maps?

    A bathymetric map depicts the topography of the ocean floor. Bathymetric maps - as well as the digital bathymetry data from which they are produced - are distributed by NCEI's Center for Coasts, Oceans, and Geophysics.

  4. Are NCEI Products and Data Free?

    NCEI makes every effort to place most datasets online where they can be obtained for free. However, we must recover the costs for producing CD-ROM & DVD products and some publications. Also, having a customer service representative do a customized retrieval for you will also have some fee involved. See our Ordering and Payment Procedures. CD-ROMs & DVDs and Publications can also be ordered from the Online Store at a discount.

    This website is provided as a public service by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service. Information presented on these web pages is considered public information and may be distributed or copied. Use of appropriate byline/photo/image credit is requested.

  5. What are tides? Where can I get tide predictions and other tide-related measurements?

    Tides are rhythmic variations in vertical water level and in horizontal water motions (tidal currents) caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun acting on the mass of water in the ocean basins. To obtain tide predictions and other information about tides, contact the NOAA National Ocean Service Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services.

  6. How do I prepare for a career in oceanography? I think I would like to work with marine mammals. Are there special requirements for this type of work? Also, how do I get a job with NOAA?

    Oceanographers study the ocean, but just as there are many specialties in medicine or music, so are there many types of oceanographers. Some study the physical conditions of the oceans by looking at temperature, salinity, density, and currents. Others examine the types of animal life or the interaction between animals and the nutrients found in the ocean. Marine geologists and geophysicists study the earth under or around the ocean. A number of Web sites are good sources of information about careers in marine sciences. These include the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography and the US Navy Office of Naval Research careers page.

    One of the most frequently-asked questions about jobs in marine sciences relates to being a 'marine mammal trainer'. Generally speaking, the prerequisites for this type of job are at least a B.A. or B.S. (4-year college degree) in biology or other science and experience working with animals (including assisting veterinarians, working in stables with horses, etc.). Because there are few jobs of this type, there is much competition for them. The NOAA/National Marine Mammal Laboratory maintains Marine Mammal Resource Links, which includes career-related sites, along with many other types of marine mammal information.

    Another site with extensive information on Careers in Oceanography, Marine Science & Marine Biology is available at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Library.

    Job openings in NOAA are advertised and filled through regular Federal Employment procedures. Index of Job Opportunities Within NOAA.

  7. Where can I get information about a specific type of fish, marine mammal, or other sea life?

    An excellent resource for information about fish and other sea creatures is provided by the NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Fish FAQ page. The NOAA/National Marine Mammals Laboratory provides an outstanding list of links to other resources about marine mammals.

  8. Where can I find nautical charts for the United States coastline? Are they available online or in digital form? What about charts for the rest of the world?

    Nautical charts are used by mariners and boaters to safely navigate on the ocean. Accurate nautical charts provide up-to-date information about navigation aids, hazards to navigation, and other information important to safe navigation. The NOAA/National Ocean Service is responsible for publishing and maintaining nautical charts and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for aeronautical charts for the United States and its territories. The National Aeronautical Charting Office is also responsible for the public distribution of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Ocean Service (NOAA/NOS) U.S. nautical charts and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), formerly the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) worldwide aeronautical and nautical charts and publications.

  9. Where can I get information about the position of the Gulf Stream?

    The Gulf Stream is an intense ocean current in the western North Atlantic Ocean that is part of the circulation of water in this ocean basin. It flows generally northward along the east coast of the United States from Florida to North Carolina and then veers out into the North Atlantic near Cape Hatteras, NC. The Gulf Stream forms a boundary between the warm waters of the Sargasso Sea and the colder, denser waters of the continental shelf. The Gulf Stream current develops meanders, loops, and bends as it veers away from the coast, so its exact position is variable.

    Satellite images of the east coast of the US provide visual information about the position of the Gulf Stream. Knowledge of the position of the Gulf Stream is important to fishermen, weather forecasters, Coast Guard search and rescue operations and many others. Some sources of Gulf Stream analyses and position information are provided by the NOAA CoastWatch program.

  10. Where can I get information about sea surface temperature and other surface features analyses?

    NCEI maintains the world's largest collection of SST products. See the AVHRR Pathfinder SST pages for SST climate data records going back to 1981 and extending to within about a year from the present. These data are available globally at a 4 km resolution, up to twice each day. See the Group for High Resolution SST (GHRSST) archive for access to the international collection of SST data sets from providers all over the world. GHRSST products are available daily. Some data sets are global while others span specific regions, and they have resolutions of between 1 km and 25 km. They are all available from NCEI 30 days after observation (our GHRSST partners at NASA provide the data within 30 days of observation - see There is also a summary of the available products and access mechanisms to GHRSST data. Other SST products for US coastal regions are available in near real time from the NOAA/CoastWatch program.

  11. Where are the best places to go diving and what types of conditions will I find there?

    The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and the National Association for Underwater Instructors*(NAUI) webpages answer general questions about diving and snorkeling, as well as maintaining up-to-date links to numerous diving related websites. Water conditions at popular and unususal dive locations can be quite variable, so it is important to get the most recent local conditions. You might want to check out the NOAA Diving Program. Historical summaries of weather and climate data for many sites around the world are provided by NCEI's Center for Weather and Climate (formerly NOAA National Climatic Data Center).

  12. Where can I get the weather forecast and water temperatures for planning my beach vacation?

    The Internet has an abundance of sources of meteorological information and data. NOAA Forecast information is available from the NOAA/National Weather Service (NWS). To get a sense of past weather conditions, you may want to check with NCEI's Center for Weather and Climate (formerly NOAA National Climatic Data Center), which is the archive for historical weather measurements. Many cities, states, and local governments now have websites that usually include a link to a source of local weather conditions and forecasts.

    Although ocean conditions vary from year to year, water temperatures are less variable than air temperatures. Therefore, climatological average water temperatures are useful in planning beach activities such as fishing and swimming. Monthly (or two-week) average water temperatures for dozens of locations around the U.S. coast are available from the NCEI Coastal Water Temperature Guide.

  13. What is El Niño?

    El Niño is a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe. See the NOAA El Niño webpage.

  14. Where else can I find ocean-related Internet sites?

    The NOAA Central Library provides links to ocean science resources and contains many useful publications related to NOAA ocean and atmospherice sciences. You may also use Internet search engines to find more ocean-related information.

  15. Confused about ocean-related acronyms?

    Here is a list of ocean-related satellite and marine science acronyms.

  16. How can I convert my values into different units?

    For example, Fahrenheit to Celsius or kilometers/hour to miles/hours...and many more including area, length, mass, pressure, speed, temperature, and volume. Please see the Unit Conversion Guide.

  17. Does NCEI collect oceanographic observations?

    NCEI manages the world's largest collection of publicly available oceanographic data. NCEI does not conduct any data collection programs of its own; it serves solely as a repository, dissemination, and analysis facility for data collected by others. Data submission guidelines.

  18. Why does NCEI have two ocean profile databases?

    Having two related profile databases may seem unnecessary and redundant but both of these databases serve critical and complementary roles. The first is the Global Temperature-Salinity Profile Program (GTSPP) which contains temperature and salinity data, and the second is the World Ocean Database (WOD) which contains data from over 20 variables. Click details to see how else they differ. Details...