Getting Started with NetCDF

A Quick Guide to Visualizing a Saidlrone Data Set

How To Visualize a NetCDF-formatted Saildrone Data Set

Saildrone Data Sets are distributed in the Network Common Data Form format, more commonly known as NetCDF. This format, developed by UniData is a set of software libraries and self-describing, machine-independent data formats that support the creation, access, and sharing of array-oriented scientific data. If you have never used NetCDF files before, here are a few tips to get you started.

Visualize a variable

To get started, follow the instructions below:


Download a sample Saildrone NetCDF data set (*.nc file hosted by NASA)


Download a NetCDF viewer, such as Panoply (or any alternative)


Open the NetCDF file using Panoply and select a variable to visualize
Example: "UWND_MEAN"  is the mean east-west wind speed


Plot the selected variable by selecting Create Plot and the default Create a Georeferenced Trajectory-Feature Type


You should see the visualization below (try zooming in and out).

Explore other Saildrone Data Sets Below.

2018 Baja California Mission

In the summer of 2018, a Saildrone unmanned surface vehicle (USV) was launched in San Francisco to follow a course south along the US/Mexico coast toward Guadalupe Island. A coalition of 23 scientists involved in 17 projects tracked the saildrone across the highly variable California Current System with two main areas of focus: To assess the utility of Saildrone measurements for satellite sea surface temperature (SST) validation and model assimilation; and to study air-sea heat flux along dynamic frontal regions using Saildrone’s core payload of sensors and an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP).

North American West Coast Survey

Fish stock assessments along the West Coast provide an essential view into fish populations and are integral to setting fishing rules and limits for the commercial fishing industry. In the summer and fall of 2018, five saildrones set off in a partnership with NOAA to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the West Coast assessment. This was the first integrated USV and ship survey of the North American West Coast.

White Shark Cafe Ecosystem Survey

The white shark is among the most iconic predators in the ocean, but for all their public exposure, the lives of white sharks remain shrouded in mystery. In 2018, two saildrones tracked tagged white sharks with the goal of shedding some light on a long-standing question around their migratory habits. Why do white sharks regularly congregate in a seemingly inhospitable part of the ocean?