The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, is an American scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce (an executive department of the federal government concerned with promoting economic growth) that focuses on the conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 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.
As we read on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the Sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep the public informed of the changing environment around them”.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s history
In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson founded the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (as the Survey of the Coast) to provide nautical charts to the maritime community for safe passage into American ports, and along the extensive coastline. The Weather Bureau was founded in 1870 and, one year later, the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries was founded. Individually, these organisations were America’s first physical science agency, America’s first agency dedicated specifically to the atmospheric sciences, and America’s first conservation agency.
The cultures of scientific accuracy and precision, service to protect life and property, and stewardship of resources of these three agencies were brought together in 1970, with the establishment of NOAA, an agency within the Department of Commerce, 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”.
The National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS)
The National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) was created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to operate and manage the U.S. environmental satellite programs, and manage the data gathered by the National Weather Service (an agency of the U.S. federal government that is tasked with providing weather forecasts, warnings of hazardous weather, and other weather-related products to organisations and the public for the purposes of protection, safety, and general information) and other government agencies and departments.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s mission: Science, Service and Stewardship
As we read on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website, NOAA’s mission is “to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources”.
To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts
Science at NOAA is the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the ocean, atmosphere, and related ecosystems, integration of research and analysis, observations and monitoring, and environmental modelling. NOAA science includes discoveries and ever new understanding of the oceans and atmosphere, and the application of this understanding to such issues as the causes and consequences of climate change, the physical dynamics of high-impact weather events, the dynamics of complex ecosystems and biodiversity, and the ability to model and predict the future states of these systems. Science provides the foundation and future promise of the service and stewardship elements of NOAA’s mission.
To share that knowledge and information with others
Service is the communication of NOAA’s research, data, information, and knowledge for use by the U.S.’s businesses, communities, and people’s daily lives. NOAA services include climate predictions and projections, weather and water reports, forecasts and warnings, nautical charts and navigational information, and the continuous delivery of a range of Earth observations and scientific data sets for use by public, private, and academic sectors.
To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources
Stewardship is NOAA’s direct use of its knowledge to protect people and the environment, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration exercises its direct authority to regulate and sustain marine fisheries and their ecosystems, protect endangered marine and anadromous species, protect and restore habitats and ecosystems, conserve marine sanctuaries and other protected places, respond to environmental emergencies, and aid in disaster recovery. The foundation of NOAA’s long-standing record of scientific, technical, and organisational excellence is its people. NOAA’s diverse functions require an equally diverse set of skills and constantly evolving abilities in its workforce.
Also underlying NOAA’s continued success is its unique infrastructure. NOAA’s core mission functions require satellite systems, ships, buoys, aircraft, research facilities, high-performance computing, and information management and distribution systems. The agency provides research-to-application capabilities that can recognise and apply significant new understanding to questions, develop research products and methods, and apply emerging science and technology to user needs. NOAA invests in and depends heavily on the science, management, and engagement capabilities of its partners. Collectively, NOAA’s organisational enterprise-wide capabilities — its people, infrastructure, research, and partnerships — are essential for NOAA to achieve its vision, mission, and long-term goals.
NOAA’s vision of the future
Again, as we read on the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA’s vision of the future includes “resilient ecosystems, communities, and economies, and healthy ecosystems, communities and economies that are resilient in the face of change”.
Earth’s ecosystems support people, communities, and economies. Our own human health, prosperity, and well-being depend upon the health and resilience of natural and social ecosystems. Managing this interdependence requires timely and usable scientific information to make decisions. Human well-being requires preparing for and responding to changes within these natural systems. NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship is directed to a vision of the future where societies and their ecosystems are healthy and resilient in the face of sudden or prolonged change.
A vision of resilience will guide NOAA and its partners in a collective effort to reduce the vulnerability of communities and ecological systems in the short-term, while helping society avoid or adapt to potential long-term environmental, social, and economic changes. To achieve this vision we must understand current Earth system conditions, project future changes, and help people make informed decisions that reduce their vulnerability to environmental hazards and stresses that emerge over time, while at the same time increase their ability to cope with them. Resilient human communities and economies maintain or improve their health and vitality over time by anticipating, absorbing, diffusing, and adapting to change. Resilient communities and institutions derive goods from ecosystems in a way that does not compromise ecosystem integrity, yet is economically feasible and socially just for future generations.
To this end, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will focus on four long-term goals that are central determinants of resilient ecosystems, communities, and economies — and that cannot be achieved without the agency’s distinctive mission and capabilities.