Skip to main content

Global Ocean Currents Database (GOCD)


The Global Ocean Current Database (GOCD) integrates ocean current data from a wide variety of capture methods, resolutions, and formats into a single format (NetCDF) archive. The GOCD is a valuable resource that gives scientists and researchers a comprehensive depiction of global current activity and structure. It also allows ocean modelers, ocean resource managers, and the shipping industry quantify the impact of currents on their operations.


The GOCD data access portal includes search interfaces for moored current meter, acoustic doppler profiler, drifting platform, high frequency radar, and ocean glider data. The portal also includes a suite of the originators datasets that make up the GOCD product. 

Launch Portal



Sun, Charles; US DOC/NOAA/NESDIS > National Centers for Environmental Information (2018). NCEI Standard Product: Global Ocean Currents Database (GOCD) (NCEI Accession 0171666). Version 3.0. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. Dataset. [access date]




Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP)
An instrument used to measure current speed. Different forms of ADCP are used to measure current from specific angles and directions:

  • Moored
  • Shipboard
  • Data variables can contain a collection of timeSeriesProfile features, one feature per station
  • A timeSeriesProfile instance dimension, also called a station dimension
  • Instance variables, which have only this dimension, including latitude and longitude for example, are also referred to as station variables and contain information describing the stations
Ocean Glider
An ocean glider is an unpiloted, autonomous underwater vehicle used to collect oceanographic data, often equipped with sensors to monitor temperature, salinity, currents, and other ocean conditions

  • Sea Glider (Developed by the University of Washington/iRobot Corp.)
  • Slocum Glider (Developed by Teledyne Webb Research)
  • Spray Glider (Developed by scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
  • Wave Glider (Developed by Liquid Robotics Oil & Gas)

Current Capture Methods

Underwater gliders use a hydrodynamic model to navigate in still water based on speed and direction. This model determines depth-averaged currents by comparing the predicted surfacing location of the vehicle with the actual surfacing position according to the GPS. Depth average current estimates have an accuracy of 0.01 cm/s and are assumed to act over the whole profile uniformly.
High Frequency (HF)

HF Radar is used to measure surface current velocity fields near the coast. Radar antennas can measure surface currents (the top 1-2 m of the water column) up to 200 km away with resolutions ranging from 500 m to 6 km depending on the radar frequency. HF Radar data is generally accurate to 10 cm/s of current speed and 10 degrees of current direction.

Note: Presented values are spatial and time averages and may not be representative of the currents of a specific point within a grid cell (particularly near shore) or of an instant in time during the observed hourly period.

Drifter Derived
Indirect determinations of ocean surface currents based on the ship drift method. The difference between a ship's dead-reckoned position (determined from its previous position, speed, and heading) and actual position determined from a navigational fix is ascribed solely to the effect of surface currents.