The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA; pronounced /ˈnoʊ.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, NOAA research and operations are supported by 321 uniformed service members who make up the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. 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. 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.
NOAA plays several specific roles in society, the benefits of which extend beyond the U.S. economy and into the larger global community:
The five "fundamental activities" are:
NOAA was formed on October 3, 1970, after U.S. President Richard Nixon proposed creating a new agency to serve a national need "or 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. In 2007, NOAA celebrated 200 years of service with its ties to the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.
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). 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).
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.
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 (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.
The National Ocean Service is composed of eight program offices: the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, the Coastal Services Center, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the Office of Coast Survey, the Office of National Geodetic Survey, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and the Office of Response and Restoration.
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.
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. 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. Since May 1998, NESIDS has operated the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites on behalf of the Air Force Weather Agency.
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.
NESDIS runs the Office of Projects, Planning, and Analysis (OPPA)] formerly the Office of Systems Development, the Office of Satellite Ground Systems (formerly the Office of Satellite Operations) the Office of Satellite and Project Operations, the Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR)], the Joint Polar Satellite System Program Office the GOES-R Program Office, the International & Interagency Affairs Office, the Office of Space Commercialization and the Office of System Architecture and Advanced Planning.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. It is headed by the Rear Admiral, who also commands the Corps.
The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) is the primary surveying organization in the United States.
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.
The Office of Program Planning and Integration (PPI) was established in June 2002 as the focus for a new corporate management culture at NOAA. PPI was created to address the needs to foster strategic management among NOAA Line and Staff Offices, Goal Teams, Programs, and Councils, support planning activities through greater opportunities for active participation of employees, stakeholders, and partners, build decision support systems based on the goals and outcomes set in NOAA's strategic plan, and guide managers and employees on program and performance management, the National Environmental Policy Act, and socioeconomic analysis.
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.
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. 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.