[Coral-List] Coral Reef Watch is releasing new products today

Mark Eakin mark.eakin at noaa.gov
Tue Feb 17 10:15:46 EST 2015

Attention all users of the NOAA Coral Reef Watch products:

The Short Scoop:

NOAA Coral Reef Watch has just released new products on its website. These are:

Full global and regional implementation of our new daily 5-km satellite coral bleaching thermal stress product suite, which replaces our heritage 50-km product suite. (Access to our 50-km products will continue for the next several months); and
Version 3 of our weekly-updated Four-Month Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress Outlook, now at 50-km resolution, replacing version 2 of the Outlook.

Please send your feedback about these products to coralreefwatch at noaa.gov.

The details: 

5-km Global Products:

These have been up on our website for a while now but have been relocated to our home page (http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/index.php). Noticeable to our users will be the increased spatial (5 km) and temporal (daily) resolutions of the products and some adjustments to our color scales. Less noticeable, but just as important, the new products use a next-generation satellite SST data set and a new climatology. Changes to the color scales have been made to provide better identification of values by those with limited color vision, to enhance the transitions at significant value intervals, and to accommodate higher thermal stress values that we unfortunately now need.

5-km Regional Products:

The 5-km product selectors on the home page and side navigation bar now point to a new system that provides access to coral bleaching thermal stress data for all reefs worldwide. Our new Regional Virtual Station system can be accessed from different pages on the Coral Reef Watch website, including our Google Maps interface at http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/vs/map.php and via our new Google Earth file. For now, you will need to download a new kmz at http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/ge/index.php to run the 5-km products in Google Earth. In the future, we will merge our existing and new Google Earth files into a single kmz file.

The Regional Virtual Stations represent a change from the way we have looked at Virtual Station data in the past. They have been designed to take advantage of higher resolution data while simultaneously providing comprehensive information on all reefs in a jurisdiction or sub-region. We realized early on that data from a single 5-km pixel (satellite data grip point) provide much higher spatial detail but are less representative of a region’s thermal conditions, especially certain regions that now contain hundreds to thousands of 5-km pixels. Additionally, many managers wanted to know what was happening across their entire jurisdiction. Rather than constructing Virtual Stations based on single 5-km pixels as we did in our heritage 50-km Virtual Stations, we created Regional Virtual Stations based on data from all of the 5-km grids within an individual jurisdiction (e.g., Main Hawaiian Islands). We also added the bleaching thermal stress outlook for the coming 1-4, 5-8, and 9-12 week periods to the new Virtual Stations/Gauges to help managers better prepare for potential coral bleaching events.  

An alert for a region is meant to inform users that they should look at the map products for more detail. These Regional Virtual Stations will be used in a series of our products including

·      Regional Gauges
·      Two-year time series graphics
·      Multi-year time series graphics
·      Virtual Stations map with data overlays in a Google Maps interface
·      Virtual Stations map with data overlays in a Google Earth file
·      Email Bleaching Alerts (one alert per region, sent out twice-weekly, free to subscribers) – coming soon

 However, we realize our approach has its costs as well. Some of the pros and cons we have identified in this switch are:

Pros of Regional Virtual Stations:

·      Utilization of higher resolution data
·      Quick guidance for an entire jurisdiction or sub-region
·      Better sense of regional impacts

Cons of Regional Virtual Stations:

·      Lower geographic specificity for individual islands and reefs
·      Less information on patterns within jurisdictions or sub-regions

As the alerts are meant to draw users to the maps, we think this will still provide the spatial pattern of the thermal stress – now at 5-km resolution.

For now, our Satellite Bleaching Alert emails will remain tied to our 50-km products. Very soon we will be converting this system to our 5-km data and will convert users’ subscriptions to match the new Regional Virtual Stations. If you are not yet signed up for this system, you can still do so on the old system at


We also have expanded the geographic network to include all coral reefs around the world based on available references. These included the Millennium Coral Reef project maps, the IUCN Coral Reefs of the World three-volume set, the UNEP/WCMC World Atlas of Coral Reefs, several country scale atlas publications, and a few other resources. If we have missed a coral reef that you know of, please let us know the name and coordinates of the missing reef.

We do plan to produce an extensive set of Virtual Stations to represent single reefs using one to a few 5-km pixels. This is a major undertaking that we are planning as a next phase of our implementation. However, this list of over a thousand virtual stations will be rather unwieldy for many users. We also may provide products that allow users to better query individual or groups of pixels. For now, that is best done using the netCDF files we have made available for all of our 5-km products. These will be fully compatible with the NOAA CoastWatch Data Analysis Tool (CDAT) available from our website, ArcGIS, and many other tools.

Four-Month Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress Outlook, Version 3:

This update to our Bleaching Outlook features three changes, which should be fairly transparent to users. Version 3 is based on NOAA/NCEP’s latest Climate Forecast System (CFS) Version 2 (CFSv2), continues to be updated every Tuesday, and now features 50x50 km (0.5°x0.5°) resolution. Version 3 of our Bleaching Outlook also replaces earlier versions of the Outlook on our Google Maps interface and our existing Google Earth file.


We encourage all of you to look over these new tools and send us your comments at coralreefwatch at noaa.gov. As always, your bleaching observations (including observations of no bleaching) are greatly appreciated. Bleaching observations can be sent to coralreefwatch at noaa.gov and/or entered into the NOAA/ReefBase collaborative online bleaching report form: http://www.reefbase.org/contribute/bleachingreport.aspx.


C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D.
Coordinator, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Center for Satellite Applications and Research
Satellite Oceanography & Climate Division
e-mail: mark.eakin at noaa.gov
url: coralreefwatch.noaa.gov

NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (NCWCP)
5830 University Research Ct., E/RA32
College Park, MD 20740
Office: (301) 683-3320     Fax: (301) 683-3301
Mobile: (301) 502-8608    SOCD Office: (301) 683-3300

“No challenge -- no challenge -- poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”
President Barack Obama, January 20, 2015 

More information about the Coral-List mailing list