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Global Oceanographic Data Archaeology and Rescue (GODAR)

The international oceanographic community has had a long history of exchanging oceanographic data that begins with the founding of the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) in 1902 and the publication of ICES-related oceanographic profile and plankton data in 1907. There continues to be a pressing need for the international oceanographic and climate communities to have access to the most complete oceanographic databases possible for research purposes and particularly for scientific studies in support of international agreements and treaties.

In December 1992, NODC/WDC presented a proposal for the Global Oceanographic Data Archaeology and Rescue (GODAR) Project at the 14th Session of the Committee on International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) where it was approved. The proposal was subsequently endorsed by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) -- the parent body of the IODE -- at the 17th IOC Assembly held in March 1993. At that time, it was further agreed that the WDC for Oceanography in Silver Spring, Maryland, would lead this project. The goal of GODAR was to increase the volume of historical oceanographic data available to climate change research and other researchers by locating ocean profile and plankton data sets not yet in digital form, digitizing these data, and ensuring their submission to national data centers and the World Data Center System. In addition, data on electronic media that are at risk of loss due to media degradation are also candidates for rescue.

Six regional GODAR meetings have been held since 1993 to bring together scientists and data managers to focus on oceanographic data resources in various areas of the world. In 1999, an "International GODAR Review Meeting" was held in Silver Spring, MD, to review project results and plan future work. More than 75 data managers and scientists from around the world attended this meeting, which concluded that the GODAR project should be continued and extended to include additional variables such as sea level and ocean bathymetry. Part of the sea level work is being performed by Mr. Pat Caldwell, the NODC Liaison Officer at the University of Hawaii.

The accomplishment of the GODAR project have resulted in the acquisition of:

  • 13,190,569 temperature casts
  • 100,000 chlorophyll casts
  • 242,727 plankton casts

All profile and plankton data acquired as part of the GODAR project were included in World Ocean Database. The WOD is now updated online every three months and on DVD every three to four years. A comparison of the number of stations by instrument type with previous NODC/WDC global ocean databases is also available.

The GODAR Project continues to locate and rescue historical oceanographic profile and plankton data that are at risk of being lost due to media decay and/or neglect. An international review meeting for the GODAR project was held during July, 1999 in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The World Ocean Database (WOD) Project

In recognition of the success by the GODAR project, a proposal was presented at the 16th Session of the IODE (IODE-XVI), which was held in Lisbon, Portugal, in October-November 2000, to establish the World Ocean Database Project. This project is intended to stimulate international exchange of modern oceanographic data and encourage the development of regional oceanographic databases as well as the implementation of regional quality control procedures. This new Project was endorsed by the IODE at the conclusion of IODE-XVI, and the IOC subsequently approved this project in June 2001.


Substantial amounts of historical ocean data continue to be transferred to NODC/WDC for inclusion into databases. The outlook for continuing to increase the amount of such data available to the scientific community is excellent.

As the amount of historical oceanographic data continues to increase, a more comprehensive set of oceanographic observations will become available to the oceanographic, climate research, and operational environmental forecasting communities. Such an enhanced database will enable the scientific community to better quantify ocean variability on both temporal and spatial scales and this, in turn, will benefit other process studies investigating atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial changes.