National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA logo.svg
Logo of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA Flag.svg
Flag of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Agency overview
Formed February 10, 1807; 211 years ago (1807-02-10)[1]
Reestablished: October 3, 1970; 47 years ago (1970-10-03)
Preceding agency
  • United States Survey of the Coast[2]
Jurisdiction United States federal government
Headquarters Silver Spring, Maryland

379 NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps

11,000+ civilian employees (as of 2015)[3]
Annual budget US$5.6 billion (est. 2011)
Agency executive
  • RDML (ret) Timothy Gallaudet, PhD, Administrator ; Deputy Under Secretary for Operations
Parent agency U.S. Department of Commerce

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA; pronounced /ˈn.ə/, like "Noah") is an American scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce that focuses on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere. NOAA warns of dangerous weather, charts seas, guides the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources and conducts research to provide understanding and improve stewardship of the environment. In addition to its over 11,000 civilian employees,[3] NOAA research and operations are supported by 321 uniformed service members who make up the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.[4] NOAA traces its history back to the convergence of multiple agencies: The United States Coastal and Geodetic Survey (founded in 1807), the Weather Bureau (1870) and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (1871). NOAA was officially formed in 1970.[5] The acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the Department of Commerce and the agency's interim administrator has been Benjamin Friedman since the end of the Obama administration on January 20, 2017.[6] Barry Myers, CEO of AccuWeather is proposed to be the next administrator.[7]

Purpose and function[edit]

Two NOAA WP-3D Orions

NOAA plays several specific roles in society, the benefits of which extend beyond the US economy and into the larger global community:

  • A Supplier of Environmental Information Products. NOAA supplies to its customers and partners information pertaining to the state of the oceans and the atmosphere. This is clear through the production of weather warnings and forecasts via the National Weather Service, but NOAA's information products extend to climate, ecosystems and commerce as well.
  • A Provider of Environmental Stewardship Services. NOAA is a steward of U.S. coastal and marine environments. In coordination with federal, state, local, tribal and international authorities, NOAA manages the use of these environments, regulating fisheries and marine sanctuaries as well as protecting threatened and endangered marine species.
  • A Leader in Applied Scientific Research. NOAA is intended to be a source of accurate and objective scientific information in the four particular areas of national and global importance identified above: ecosystems, climate, weather and water, and commerce and transportation.[8]

The five "fundamental activities" are:

  • Monitoring and observing Earth systems with instruments and data collection networks.
  • Understanding and describing Earth systems through research and analysis of that data.
  • Assessing and predicting the changes of these systems over time.
  • Engaging, advising, and informing the public and partner organizations with important information.
  • Managing resources for the betterment of society, economy and environment.[9]


Seal of the NOAA Commissioned Corps

NOAA was formed on October 3, 1970 after U.S. President Richard Nixon proposed creating a new agency to serve a national need for "better protection of life and property from natural hazards …for a better understanding of the total environment…[and] for exploration and development leading to the intelligent use of our marine resources." NOAA formed a conglomeration of several existing scientific agencies that were among the oldest in the federal government. They were the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, formed in 1807; the Weather Bureau, formed in 1870—Geodetic Survey and Weather Service had been combined by a 1965 consolidation into the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA), including the uniformed Commissioned Corp (founded 1917); and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, formed in 1871. NOAA was established within the Department of Commerce via the Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1970.[10] In 2007, NOAA celebrated 200 years of service with its ties to the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.[11]

Organizational structure[edit]

NOAA Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland

The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps is a uniformed service of men and women who operate NOAA ships and aircraft, and serve in scientific and administrative posts.

NOAA works toward its mission through six major line offices, the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the National Ocean Service (NOS), the National Weather Service (NWS), the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) and the Office of Marine & Aviation Operations (OMAO).[12] and in addition more than a dozen staff offices, including the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology, the NOAA Central Library, the Office of Program Planning and Integration (PPI).[12]

National Weather Service[edit]

Seal of the National Weather Service

The National Weather Service (NWS) is tasked with providing "weather, hydrologic and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas, for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy." This is done through a collection of national and regional centers, 13 river forecast centers (RFCs), and more than 120 local weather forecast offices (WFOs). They are charged with issuing weather and river forecasts, advisories, watches, and warnings on a daily basis. They issue more than 734,000 weather and 850,000 river forecasts, and more than 45,000 severe weather warnings annually. NOAA data is also relevant to the issues of global warming and ozone depletion.[citation needed]

The NWS operates NEXRAD, a nationwide network of Doppler weather radars which can detect precipitation and their velocities. Many of their products are broadcast on NOAA Weather Radio, a network of radio transmitters that broadcasts weather forecasts, severe weather statements, watches and warnings 24 hours a day.[13]

National Ocean Service[edit]

The National Ocean Service (NOS) focuses on ensuring that ocean and coastal areas are safe, healthy, and productive. NOS scientists, natural resource managers, and specialists serve America by ensuring safe and efficient marine transportation, promoting innovative solutions to protect coastal communities, and conserving marine and coastal places.[citation needed]

The National Ocean Service is composed of eight program offices: the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services,[14] the Coastal Services Center,[15] the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science,[16] the Office of Coast Survey,[17] the Office of National Geodetic Survey,[18] the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries[19] the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management[20] and the Office of Response and Restoration.[21]

There are two NOS programs, namely the Mussel Watch Contaminant Monitoring Program and the NOAA Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and two staff offices, the International Program Office and the Management and Budget Office.

National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service[edit]

NOAA engineer at work

The National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) was created by NOAA to operate and manage the US environmental satellite programs, and manage NWS data and those of other government agencies and departments.[citation needed] NESDIS's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) archives data collected by the NOAA, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration, and meteorological services around the world and comprises the Center for Weather and Climate (previously NOAA's National Climatic Data Center) and the Center for Coasts, Oceans, and Geophysics (created by a merger of NOAA's National Coastal Data Development Center (NCDDC), National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) and the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC)).

In 1960 TIROS-1, NOAA's first owned and operated geostationary satellite was launched. Since 1966 NESDIS has managed polar orbiting satellites (POES) and since 1974 it has operated geosynchronous satellites (GOES) . In 1979 NOAA's first polar-orbiting environmental satellite was launched. Current operational satellites include NOAA-15, NOAA-18, NOAA-19, GOES 13, GOES 14, GOES 15, Jason-2 and DSCOVR. In 1983, NOAA assumed operational responsibility for Landsat satellite system.[22][citation needed] Since May 1998, NESIDS has operated the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites on behalf of the Air Force Weather Agency.[23][citation needed]

New generations of satellites are developed to succeed the current polar orbiting and geosynchronous satellites, the Joint Polar Satellite System) and GOES-R, which is scheduled for launch in March 2017.[24][citation needed]

NESDIS runs the Office of Projects, Planning, and Analysis (OPPA)] formerly the Office of Systems Development,[25] the Office of Satellite Ground Systems (formerly the Office of Satellite Operations)[26] the Office of Satellite and Project Operations,[27] the Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR)],[28] the Joint Polar Satellite System Program Office[29] the GOES-R Program Office, the International & Interagency Affairs Office, the Office of Space Commercialization[30] and the Office of System Architecture and Advanced Planning.

National Marine Fisheries Service[edit]

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was initiated in 1871, with a primary goal of the research, protection, management, and restoration of commercial fisheries and protected species. The NMFS operates six fisheries science centers throughout the United States, which are the sites of research and management on marine resources. The NMFS also operates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement in Silver Spring, Maryland, which is the primary site of marine resource law enforcement.

Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research[edit]

NOAA's research, conducted through the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), is the driving force behind NOAA environmental products and services that protect life and property and promote economic growth. Research, conducted in OAR laboratories and by extramural programs, focuses on enhancing our understanding of environmental phenomena such as tornadoes, hurricanes, climate variability, solar flares, changes in the ozone, air pollution transport and dispersion,[31][32] El Niño/La Niña events, fisheries productivity, ocean currents, deep sea thermal vents, and coastal ecosystem health. NOAA research also develops innovative technologies and observing systems.

The NOAA Research network consists of seven internal research laboratories, extramural research at 30 Sea Grant university and research programs, six undersea research centers, a research grants program through the Climate Program Office, and 13 cooperative institutes with academia. Through NOAA and its academic partners, thousands of scientists, engineers, technicians, and graduate students participate in furthering our knowledge of natural phenomena that affect the lives of us all.[33][citation needed]

The Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) is one of the laboratories in the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. It studies processes and develops models relating to climate and air quality, including the transport, dispersion, transformation and removal of pollutants from the ambient atmosphere. The emphasis of the ARL's work is on data interpretation, technology development and transfer. The specific goal of ARL research is to improve and eventually to institutionalize prediction of trends, dispersion of air pollutant plumes, air quality, atmospheric deposition, and related variables.[34][self-published source][citation needed]

The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), is part of NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, located in Miami, Florida. AOML's research spans hurricanes, coastal ecosystems, oceans and human health, climate studies, global carbon systems, and ocean observations. AOML's organizational structure consists of an Office of the Director and three scientific research divisions (Physical Oceanography, Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems, and Hurricane Research). The Office of the Director oversees the Laboratory's scientific programs, as well as its financial, administrative, computer, outreach/education, and facility management services. Research programs are augmented by the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS), a joint enterprise with the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. CIMAS enables AOML and university scientists to collaborate on research areas of mutual interest and facilitates the participation of students and visiting scientists. AOML is a member of a unique community of marine research and educational institutions located on Virginia Key in Miami, Florida.[citation needed]

In 1977 the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) deployed the first successful moored equatorial current meter – the beginning of the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean, TAO, array. In 1984 the Tropical Ocean-Global Atmosphere program (TOGA) program began.

Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and the Commissioned Officer Corps[edit]

The Office of Marine and Aviation Operations is responsible for the fleet of NOAA ships, aircraft, and diving operations. It has the largest research fleet of the Federal government. Its personnel is made up of civilians and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.[35] The office is headed by a NOAA Corps two-star rear admiral, who also commands the Corps.[36]

National Geodetic Survey[edit]

The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) is the primary surveying organization in the United States.[citation needed]

National Integrated Drought Information System[edit]

The National Integrated Drought Information System is a program within NOAA with an interagency mandate to coordinate and integrate drought research, building upon existing federal, tribal, state, and local partnerships in support of creating a national drought early warning information system.[37][citation needed]

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change[edit]

Since 2001, the organization has hosted the senior staff and recent chair, Susan Solomon, of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's working group on climate science.[38]


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration flag, flown as a distinguishing mark by all commissioned NOAA ships.

The NOAA flag is a modification of the flag of one of its predecessor organizations, the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. The Coast and Geodetic Survey's flag, authorized in 1899 and in use until 1970, was blue, with a white circle centered in it and a red triangle centered within the circle. It symbolized the use of triangulation in surveying, and was flown by ships of the Survey.[citation needed]

When NOAA was established in 1970 and the Coast and Geodetic Survey's assets became a part of NOAA, NOAA based its own flag on that of the Coast and Geodetic Survey. The NOAA flag is in essence the Coast and Geodetic Survey flag, with the NOAA logo—a circle divided by the silhouette of a seabird into an upper dark blue and a lower light blue section, but with the "NOAA" legend omitted—centered within the red triangle. NOAA ships in commission display the NOAA flag; those with only one mast fly it immediately beneath the ship's commissioning pennant or the personal flag of a civilian official or flag officer if one is aboard the ship, while multimasted vessels fly it at the masthead of the forwardmost mast.[39] NOAA ships fly the same ensign as United States Navy ships but fly the NOAA flag as a distinguishing mark to differentiate themselves from Navy ships.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Celebrating 200 Years NOAA website, 2007.
  2. ^ "About Our Agency | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration". Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  3. ^ a b " Agency Report". Best Places to Work. Retrieved 1 Jul 2014. 
  4. ^ "About | Office of Marine and Aviation Operations". Retrieved 2017-06-13. 
  5. ^ "Our history | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration". Retrieved 2017-06-13. 
  6. ^ "Benjamin Friedman | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration". Retrieved 2017-06-13. 
  7. ^ "Trump administration nominates AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers to head NOAA - Geospatial World". Geospatial World. 2017-10-25. Retrieved 2017-10-25. 
  8. ^ "About the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)". Retrieved 2016-05-18. 
  9. ^ "New Priorities for the 21st Century NOAA STRATEGIC PLAN FY 2005 – FY 2010" (PDF). U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Program Planning and Integration, NOAA Strategic Planning. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 June 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  10. ^ "Reorganization Plan 4 - 197 - NOAA Central Library". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  11. ^ Shea, Eileen. "A History of NOAA". Department of Commerce Historical Council. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "Organization | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration". 2016-03-30. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  13. ^ Service, US Department of Commerce, NOAA, National Weather. "NOAA Weather Radio". Retrieved 2017-01-30. 
  14. ^ "NOAA Tides & Currents". Retrieved 19 August 2017. 
  15. ^ NOAA Office for Coastal Management ADS Group. "NOAA Office for Coastal Management". Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  16. ^ "Home - NOAA Tides & Currents". 2013-10-15. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  17. ^ "Nautical Charts & Pubs". Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  18. ^ "National Geodetic Survey - Home". Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  19. ^ "NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries". Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 27, 2006. Retrieved October 25, 2006. 
  21. ^ "Our role is stewardship; our product is science". 1989-03-24. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  22. ^ "Landsat Data Data Sheet". 1997. 
  23. ^ "Department of Commerce". Retrieved 2017-05-28. 
  24. ^ "NASA Successfully Launches NOAA Advanced Geostationary Weather Satellite". November 19, 2016. 
  25. ^ "NOAA/NESDIS Office of Systems Development Homepage". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 10, 2013. Retrieved July 22, 2015. 
  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 28, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2015. 
  28. ^ "NOAA Star : Center for Satellite Applications and Research". Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 29, 2012. Retrieved July 22, 2015. 
  30. ^ Office of Space Commerce. "Office of Space Commerce | Helping U.S. businesses use the unique medium of space to benefit our economy". Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  31. ^ Turner, D.B. (1994). Workbook of atmospheric dispersion estimates: an introduction to dispersion modeling (2nd ed.). CRC Press. ISBN 1-56670-023-X. Archived 2007-11-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  32. ^ Beychok, M.R. (2005). Fundamentals Of Stack Gas Dispersion (4th ed.). author-published. ISBN 0-9644588-0-2.
  33. ^ "NOAA News Online (Story 235)". Retrieved 2017-05-28. 
  34. ^ Pan, Jock (2010). The United States Outer Executive Departments and Independent Establishments & Government Corporations. Xlibris. ISBN 1450086748. 
  35. ^ "About OMAO - Office of Marine and Aviation Operations". Retrieved 19 August 2017. 
  36. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-04-20. Retrieved 2017-04-19. 
  37. ^ "What is NIDIS? | U.S Drought Portal". Retrieved 2017-05-28. 
  38. ^ Pearce, Fred, The Climate Files: The Battle for the Truth about Global Warming, (2010) Guardian Books, ISBN 978-0-85265-229-9, p. XVIII.
  39. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 24, 2008. Retrieved January 10, 2009. 

External links[edit]