Geographical Information systems (GIS) have become useful tools in commercial and military operations. These tools provide a myriad of features for analysis of geospatially referenced information. The Navy METOC community is currently working toward the integration of GIS technologies into spatial analysis. This includes ocean modeling, weather modeling, and tactical data integration. GIS applications have grown out of the need to replace paper maps and are inherently two-dimensional in nature. GIS is designed to ingest geospatial data, organize the data into layers, manipulate these layers, and render them onto a map image for analysis.
One of the greatest challenges of METOC data is that it is inherently four-dimensional (latitude, longitude, depth/altitude and time). Current strategies to fit the four-dimensional data into GIS overcome this limitation by breaking out variations of third and fourth dimensions into separate layers that share the same 2D bounding box. This technique is usable for limited numbers of layers, but becomes clumsy and ultimately un-scalable as time and elevation resolutions increase. For example, to completely enable the 13 regions produced in one day of NCOM forecast model runs would result in excess of 50,000 GIS layers.