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Marine Data Visualization Tools



Historically -- and especially now that computers play a central role in marine data management -- the analysis of data has centered on visual displays, including more-or-less "standard" figures such as station maps, station profiles, scatter plots, sections, gridded and contoured scalar values, vectors of currents/winds, etc. These analyses are inextricably linked with all aspects of marine science, ranging from initial quality control procedures to all levels of hypothesis testing and research. We present here only a small selection of programs, namely those used in OceanTeacher.

Selected Resources

ArcExplorer, Java Version Browser/viewer for existing local Geographic Information System (GIS) data, with a web client for viewing online GIS data
  • Download the latest version from ESRI (registration is required) to your desktop
  • Unzip the installation file on the desktop, to the desktop
  • Run the file AEJavaSetup.exe
  • Take all defaults during installation
  • Clean up your desktop by deleting the temporary installation files

Basic Radar Altimetry Toolbox.  Designed to use radar altimetry data. It is able to read all altimetry data from official data centres, from ERS-1 and 2, Topex/Poseidon, Geosat Follow-on, Jason-1, Envisat, Jason-2 and Cryosat, from Sensor Geophysical Data Record to gridded merged data; to do some processing and computations, and to visualize the results.

  • Download and run the installer file for your platform
  • The paradigm for running BRAT is completely foreign to most previous user experiences with data visualization software, so reading the manual is mandatory
Allows Envisat data users to open any Envisat data file, and examine its contents. It provides simple visualisation capabilities, and allows data to be exported to HDF for use in other software packages
Google Earth Very imaginative 3-D geospatial data viewer, tied into many major online data and image systems.
Java application which transforms a global input equirectangular map image into one of over 80 global and regional map projections

Grid Display and Analysis System for gridded meteorological and oceanographic weather and climate data, usually in GRIB or NetCDF formats

  • Not currently available for Windows.
HDF Browser

Browser/viewer for Hierarchical Data Format (HDF) files; can convert other-format data to HDF. Very useful for browsing unknown datafile, especially suspected binary grids.

  • Download the EXE file to your desktop and run it from that location to install
  • Clean up your desktop by deleting the EXE file afterwards

Browser/viewer for data in Hierarchical Data Format (HDF) and now also NetCDF. Handles Level 3 and 4 satellite products very well, but the wide variety of HDF variants used for Level 1 and 2 products requires the use of specialty remote sensing software. This should not be a problem for general marine data management operations, whereby usually only Levels 3 and 4 are maintained.  Useful for exporting grids from HDF or NetCDF in ASCII format, and also for creating HDF files from existing image files.

  • You should install the latest version (2.6.1), then copy the file jhdfview.jar into the appropriate location in the installation folder (usually in C:\PROGRAM FILES) to fix a small bug in the original version.
Integrated Data Viewer Data visualizer for remote sensing images, GIS files and a broad suite of operational ocean and weather data products
Mozilla Firefox Internet website browser recommended for use with OceanTeacher Wiki
ncBrowse Browser for NetCDF files with limited graphic analysis capabilities
Ocean Sneaker's Tool Spreadsheet-type program to generate, illustrate and visualize table-organized geo-referenced ASCII data; can convert Seabird CTD data to ODV spreadsheets
Environmental Data Connector Provides a GUI to browse THREDDS catalogs or OPeNDAP directories, to subset the selected data in space and time, and to download the data as a netcdf file.
Ocean Data View

Analysis and display software for ocean station data; produces publication quality graphics.

  • Select SOFTWARE on the ODV homepage
  • Register to receive the program.  You will enter into the software download area of the website.
  • In the SOFTWARE folder, download the latest version for your computer (but not BETA) to your desktop
  • In the OPTIONAL PACKAGES folder, download (a high-resolution global coastline) and (a high-resolution global gridded bathymetry) to your desktop
  • In the same order you downloaded the files, install them.  To do this, open the zipfile in WinZip and click on the SETUP.EXE file and accept all the defaults
  • If you are asked if you want to overwrite any files during these installations, say YES.  This is because the same generic filenames are used within the 3 different installations.

A Java application which plots geo-gridded arrays from netCDF, HDF and GRIB datasets; subsetting by geographic coordinates is supported


Very basic gridding program that operates in XYZ files, producing contoured grids; can also create motion vectors from speed and direction grids


A hybrid GIS software incorporating robust gridded display handling with a somewhat lesser-developed shapefile management and display capability

  • INSTALLATION FOR GENERAL USE:  Go to the link on the left, and follow the instructions for a BINARY INSTALL.  Make sure you use the file with a filename like for the installation; do not use saga_version_setup.exe.  This version is completely serviceable for most purposes.
  • INSTALLATION FOR OCEANTEACHER TRAINING COURSES:  To take advantage of features recently added to Saga, the OceanTeacher training courses must use a more up-to-date "snapshot" version of the program.  Use of "snapshots" requires a helper program, listed below:
  • For either of the above options, simply unzip the Saga installation file to your C: drive.  Then locate the file saga_gui.exe in the new folder and create a shortcut to it on the desktop or in any convenient location

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Information about this article

Short title: Visualization Tools

Description: Software tools for the graphic visualization of marine and coastal data, including mapping and high-level decision-making and/or event response tools based on resource display models

Expertise level: beginner

Author: Murray.Brown

Approval status: approved

Approved by: Murray.Brown

Last change: 2010-5-25

Subsection of: Manipulation - Analysis - Display


If you have any direct comments or suggestions for the author of this page then please feel free to send an email to the author (listed above). For discussions on this page please use the discussions page.,   

This page was last modified on 25 May 2010, at 11:29.This page has been accessed 23,038 times.
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