NOAA's strategic vision is "an informed society that uses a comprehensive understanding of the role of the oceans, coasts, and atmosphere in the global ecosystem to make the best social and economic decisions."
The agency's mission is "to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment and conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our nation's economic, social, and environmental needs."
In support of its vision and mission, has four goals to guide its suite of operations. Each goal corresponds to activities focusing on ecosystems, climate, weather and water, and commerce and transportation. Specifically, NOAA operates to:
NOAA plays several specific roles in society, the benefits of which extend beyond the US economy and into the larger global community:
Recognizing that it is essential that we understand the challenges that we face as part of the Earth system in order to create appropriate solutions, NOAA conducts an end-to-end sequence of activities, beginning with scientific discovery and resulting in a number of critical environmental services and products. The five "fundamental activities" are:
NOAA was formed on October 3, 1970 after Richard Nixon proposed creating a new department 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 three existing 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; 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. With its ties to the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, NOAA celebrated 200 years of service in 2007.
NOAA works toward its mission through these five major organizations in addition to several special program units:
In addition, NOAA research and operational activities are supported by a uniformed service, the NOAA Corps. They are a commissioned officer corps of men and women who operate NOAA ships and aircraft, and serve in scientific and administrative posts.
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, and more than 120 local weather forecast offices (WFOs). They are charged with issuing weather 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. 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.
The National Ocean Service is composed of program offices, programs, and staff offices:
The National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) was created by the NOAA to operate and manage the United States environmental satellite programs, and manage the data gathered by the NWS and other government agencies and departments. Data collected by the NWS, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration, and meteorological services around the world, are housed at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. NESDIS also operates the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) in Boulder, Colorado, the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) in Silver Spring, Maryland, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and the National Coastal Data Development Center (NCDDC) which are used internationally by environmental scientists.
NESDIS also runs the:
The service operates and manages many geosynchronous satellites and polar orbiting satellites. In 1975 Tiros-1 (also known as GEOS-1), NOAA's first owned and operated geostationary satellite was launched. In 1983 NOAA assumed operational responsibility for LANDSAT satellite system. In 1984 the Tropical Ocean-Global Atmosphere program (TOGA) program began.
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 1979 NOAA's first polar-orbiting environmental satellite was launched.
The National Marine Fisheries Service, also known as NOAA Fisheries, is the direct descendant of the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries, which was initiated in 1871 to protect, study, manage and restore fish. The NMFS has a marine fisheries research lab in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and is home to one of NOAA's five fisheries science centers.
It law enforcement agency is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement based in Silver Spring, Maryland.
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, 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 7 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.
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.
National Weather Service
National Ocean Service
Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research