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The Next Generation Atlas

Launched in 2011, the Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas provides more than just maps. Links to data download sites provide easy access to each map's source data. Descriptions of the datasets accompany the maps and explains why the data are important to Gulf of Mexico coastal and marine ecosystems. Metadata records provide the complete details about how the data were collected. WMS and REST services allow for easy import of the map layers into desktop and web-based clients.

The Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas was developed to meet identified user needs. As plans to restore the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill began, Gulf Coast residents, scientists, and natural resource managers turned to NOAA for data and information about all aspects of the Gulf of Mexico. The most requested types of data and information were those that had been published in the "Gulf of Mexico Coastal and Ocean Zones Strategic Assessment Data Atlas" by NOAA's National Ocean Service in 1985 as a large, hardcopy tabletop book. The Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas updates and expands that publication in an online, digital format.

The Atlas' Format

The Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas has data from all five Gulf States (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas). The seaward boundaries of the Atlas extend to the Yucatan Channel and the Straits of Florida. Maps are available in six topic areas:

  • Physical (e.g., bathymetry, climatology)
  • Biotic (e.g., chemosynthetic communities, aquatic vegetation, deep sea corals)
  • Living Marine Resources (e.g., oysters, shrimp, grouper)
  • Socioeconomic Conditions (e.g., shipping & navigation, social well-being)
  • Environmental Quality (e.g., water quality, nutrients, discharges)
  • Jurisdictions (e.g., marine, fishery closures)

Each map has a description, written by recognized subject matter experts, explaining how the data was gathered and its relevance to the Gulf of Mexico. Users can also link directly to data downloads, REST services. High resolution images of the original 1985 atlas maps are also available.

Meeting Shared Goals

The work of more than 60 partners, the Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas leverages resources among agencies and activities. NCEI brought together data providers from international, federal, state, and nongovernmental organizations to form a multiagency steering committee to guide the development of the Gulf Atlas as well as contribute data and expertise. NCEI then developed the Gulf Atlas as a web-based tool that can be expanded with additional data as available.


For more information about the Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas, please email