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Facilitating Identification of Coastal and Undersea Features—“Footprints” for Marine Gazeteers

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When we look for online information, we are often interested in a particular place where we live, work, or are planning to visit. By typing in the name of the place, we get a map of the area and a list of resources that are keyed to specific places on the map. These online information services make use of gazetteers to look up the geographic footprints of named places. However, gazetteers that list ocean places usually provide the latitude and longitude of a single point—or at most a rectangular bounding box—even for a place as large and irregular as the Pacific Ocean. The USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program is producing sets of geographic polygons to help people find scientific information about the ocean. These polygons are not authoritative representations of the features in question, but simpler shapes that can be used efficiently by online search interfaces.

This global map shows selected geospatial polygons (footprints) for undersea features
Above: This global map shows selected geospatial polygons (footprints) for undersea features such as the Aleutian Basin, the Molokai Fracture Zone, and the East Pacific Rise. These polygons were created after examining historical bathymetric maps, digital data, and scientific literature. (Figure 1 from USGS Open-File Report 2014–1040.) [larger version]

The first footprints, published in December 2013 as USGS Open-File Report 2013–1284, represented 492 U.S. coastal counties along with adjacent state waters. A second set of footprints was published in March 2014 as USGS Open-File Report 2014–1040. This report contains 311 footprints for undersea features, including features as large as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and as small as the banks and basins in the Gulf of Maine. Following these publications, the project will release footprints for coastal features such as capes, islands, and bays. These footprints will be released as an expandable online database, in recognition of the ongoing need to add more coastal features to the list.

The footprints are released in shapefiles compatible with geospatial information systems. Online information systems with the capability to search user-defined, polygonal geographic areas will be able to offer these places in response to user requests. In particular, the spatial extents of oceans and seas will be offered as a search option in the USGS Core Science Metadata Clearinghouse. Footprints for high-priority undersea features are being incorporated into the GEBCO (General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans) Gazetteer of Undersea Feature Names and will be added to the GEOnet Names Server maintained by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Complete citations for the two reports are:

Hartwell, S.R., Wingfield, D.K., Allwardt, A.O., Wong, F.L., and Lightsom, F.L., 2013, Shapefile for Coastal Zone Management Program counties of the United States and its territories, 2009 (CZMP_counties_2009.shp): U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013–1284, 9 p. [http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20131284].

Hartwell, S.R., Wingfield, D.K., Allwardt, A.O., Lightsom, F.L., and Wong, F.L., 2014, Polygons of global undersea features for geographic searches (undersea_features.shp): U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2014–1040, 8 p. [http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20141040].

Related Sound Waves Stories
Technical Workshop on Ocean and Coastal Mapping Inventory
Jan. / Feb. 2008

Related Websites
USGS Open-File Report 2014–1040
USGS Open-File Report 2013–1284
USGS Core Science Metadata Clearinghouse
GEBCO Gazetteer of Undersea Feature Names
GEOnet Names Server
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
“Geospatial Data Products,” NEWSWAVE, Spring 2014

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in this issue:

cover story:
Earthquake, Landslide, and Tsunami Hazards in the Caribbean

Through the Eyes of a Polar Bear—First "Point of View" Video

Spotlight on Sandy
Hurricane Sandy Impacts Did Not Contribute to Subsequent Storm Flooding

New Personnel Study Estuarine Response to Storms

Summer Hires Assist Studies of Coastal Sediment Transport

Tracking Oil—USGS Tools and Analysis Inform Oil-Spill Response

Help Identify Coastal Hazards with Aerial Photographs on "iCoast" Website

Coral Reefs Provide Critical Protection to Coastal Inhabitants

New Postdoctoral Researchers at USGS in Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Summer Intern at USGS in Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Publications New USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Web Pages

Facilitating Identification of Coastal and Undersea Features

May / June Publications

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

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