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National Oceanic and Atmosphere Association (NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Association is a scientific agency under the control of the Unites States Department of Commerce, which is overseen by the Secretary of Commerce. Founded in 1970, NOAA has been tasked with studying the conditions of the atmosphere and oceans. NOAA responsibilities including creating charts, understanding marine life, weather prediction, and managing ocean and costal resources.

To carry out its disparate duties, NOAA comprises a number of organizational units, each tasked with a specific part of the overall mission of the organization. The basis of that structure is outlined here.

  • National Weather Service (NWS)
  • National Ocean Service (NOS)
  • National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS)
  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
  • Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR)
  • National Geodetic Survey (NGS)
  • National Integrated Drought Information System
  • Program Planning and Integration (PPI)

Clearly, NOAA is a vast organization with access to large amounts of data, but there is another organization that is affiliated with NOAA though it is not directly under its direction. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) performs research on snow, ice, the cryosphere, and climate in the Arctic and Antarctic. NSIDC, however, is under the direction and funding of NASA (National Air and Space Administration). This critical component of climate research in the United States has a strong affiliation and working agreement with NOAA.

To pay for its research, NOAA receives an annual budget in the range of $5 billion USD. Of the $5 billion, roughly $2 billion is used to maintain and procure satellites. There is some concern among U.S. policy-makers that the redundancy between NOAA and NASA satellites may be hurting both agencies budgets. These lawmakers have proposed that NASA manage all government satellites, something that is hotly contested by NOAA. The chart below indicates the requested budget for FY2012.

NOAA 2012 Budget (USD)



Oceans & Coasts












Education, program support, vehicles





The research carried out by NOAA is vast and best understood by summarizing the activities of each of the units. Research by NSIDC will also be included here.

U.S. Climate Research




National Weather Service (NWS)

Provides weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts/warnings for the U.S. and its territories. National and regional centers collect data using satellites and NEXRAD (a network of Doppler radars)


National Ocean Service (NOS)

Creation of marine sanctuaries, conservation of marine habitat, maintenance of shipping channels and marine transport


National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS)

Collects environmental satellite data, manages data collected by the NWS, manages data collected by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Atmospheric data is publicly available


National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)

Research to protect, study, manage, and restore fish. Law enforcement capabilities


Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR)

Research into environmental products and services such as tornado warning systems. Seven research labs, six undersea centers, and 13 university collaborations


National Geodetic Survey (NGS)

Surveying of the U.S. territory


National Integrated Drought Information System

Research into monitoring, forecasting, and managing drought conditions.


National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)

Research into snow cover, sea ice changes, the cryosphere, and polar regions.


Cooperative agreement NOAA

National Climatic Data Center (NCDC)

Management of climate data from all government organizations


NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NASA – National Air and Space Administration

Climate Prediction Center (CPC)

Organization of NOAA isn’t always straightforward and a good example of this is the Climate Prediction Center (CPC), which is under the control of the National Weather Service. The CPC is one of nine service centers operated by NOAA, all of which fall under the heading of National Centers for Environmental Prediction. The goal of each center is to produce useful products and services, using the data available to NOAA, that can be used by the public for planning and preparedness. Other service centers include the Aviation Weather Center, Environmental Modeling Center, and Space Weather Prediction Center.

The CPC focuses on climate variability predictions and real-time monitoring of climate anomalies. The goal is to provide long-term prediction products covering scales that range from weeks to years that can provide for mitigation of natural disasters that may result from climate change. Information from CPC is made available to government, public, and private sectors and is also used by the U.S. military for long range planning. Examples of CPC productions include:

  • Temperature prediction and anomaly including heat index predictions that span from 6-14 days
  • Temperature and precipitation prediction for 3-month intervals
  • Drought outlook
  • Probability of exceedance for temperature, precipitation, and heating/cooling degree days for 3-month intervals

Predictions regarding climate indices are well within the scope of the CPC mission. The organization offers predictions of all major climate indices including ENSO, MJO, AAO, NAO, AO, and more. It uses these predictions to further project storm tracks, provide informationabout global monsoons, and to create long-range views of seasonal weather. The CPC provides the longest timescale predictions of any of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

Environmental Monitoring Center (EMC)

The EMC works closely with the CPC to improve weather and climate predictions through a number of data assimilation techniques. The center was created to test weather prediction systems when computers first became available to the government in 1954.  Today, the EMC develops and maintains 20 different weather predictions systems. Models include the Global Forecast System, the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting model, and the North American Mesoscale model.