NOAA links its architecture online

NOAA links its architecture online

Enterprise data architects at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week said they are piecing together an online portal that can navigate 99 disparate systems observing more than 500 environmental parameters.

The NOAA Observing System Architecture, or NOSA, provides:

  • An integrated view of the agency’s data

  • A framework for examining future data needs, costs, gaps and duplication

  • Broad accessibility.


Users can search by world geopolitical or ecological region, U.S. hydrologic unit, National Weather Service forecast zone, and U.S. county or congressional district.

The underlying geospatial database infrastructure uses Spatial Structured Query Language with ArcIMS from ESRI of Redlands, Calif., NOAA’s Web Image Spreadsheet Tool (WIST), the Web Map Service viewer from the Open Geospatial Consortium Inc. of Wayland, Mass., and other tools.

A searcher chooses a location and type of observing system to view its data in table form. Some 80 of the systems at the NOSA portal have clickable links to at least part of their real-time or near-real-time information.

For example, the National Continuously Operating Reference Stations System, operated by NOAA and other agencies, takes Global Positioning System measurements across the U.S. and its territories. Surveyors and engineers can apply CORS data to determine, to within a few centimeters, the horizontal and vertical position of buildings or other objects in the National Spatial Reference System.

A color-coded map tells how often each CORS site samples its geodetic position. Map layers include state boundaries, interstate highways, lakes and rivers. A mouse function panel lets users pan, zoom and measure distances from each CORS site.

NOAA chief Conrad Lautenbacher decreed three years ago that the agency should integrate its earth observing systems under the direction of a program manager from the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service. He said the architecture should be able to “capture the state today as well as the future state” expected in 10 or 20 years.

Lautenbacher said the decisions on which observing systems to consolidate under the online architecture depended on their reliability, performance, maintainability, number and types of users, and cost.

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