NOAA collects and uses active acoustic (or sonar) data for a variety of mapping requirements. As the national archive for multibeam bathymetric data, NGDC manages over 15 million nautical miles of ship trackline data from sources worldwide. In 2011, NGDC, in partnership with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), initiated a new archive for high resolution data collected with sonars capable of mapping the water column.
Water column sonar data are collected on NOAA fishery survey vessels and academic and international fleets, and are used to assess the physical and biological characteristics of the ocean. Primary uses include 3-D mapping of fish schools and other mid-water marine organisms, assessing biological abundance, species identification, and habitat characterization. These data are also useful for evaluating underwater gas seeps, remotely monitoring undersea oil spills, and bathymetry.
NGDC is working with scientists at NMFS and the Joint Hydrographic Center to ensure the long-term preservation and world-wide dissemination of these data.