October 1970. President Richard M. Nixon was on his way to the
Middle East when Egyptian President Nassar died. The Pittsburgh Steelers
were putting a lot of faith in their new rookie quarterback, Terry
Bradshaw. The top grossing movie of the month was Tora! Tora!
Tora! - and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
a new federal agency to observe, predict and protect our environment,
a July 1970 statement to Congress, President Nixon proposed creating
NOAA 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..." On October 3,
NOAA was established under the Department of Commerce.
years later, NOAA still works for America every day. From providing
timely and precise weather, water and climate forecasts, to monitoring
the environment, to managing fisheries and building healthy coastlines,
to making our nation more competitive through safe navigation and
examining changes in the oceans, NOAA is on the front lines for
hours of crisis, NOAA employees have been found issuing the tornado
warnings that saved hundreds of lives from a deadly storm, flying
into the eyes of hurricanes to gather information about possible
landfall, fighting to free three grey whales trapped in the ice,
fielding a massive scientific operation on the shores to guide the
comeback from an oil spill, and monitoring by satellites the movement
of hurricanes and other severe storms, volcanic ash and wildfires
that threaten communities.
is most proud of its people. "The people of NOAA make it a great,
great agency!" said D. James Baker, NOAA's seventh administrator.
"We cannot accomplish our mission without the creative energies
of all people who bring with them different approaches, solutions,
pieces, each with a rich history, joined together to make NOAA the
original whole earth agency. In fact, many of NOAA's components
have 19th century origins.
charting piece, which evolved into the
National Ocean Service (NOS), began at the turn of the 19th
century when President Thomas Jefferson, a true NOAA pioneer, established
the first science agency of the United States: the Survey of the
Coast. The Survey of the Coast changed its name to the Coast and
Geodetic Survey in 1878 to reflect the role of geodesy. Today NOS
still helps people find their position on the planet by managing
the National Geodetic Survey (NGS),
which specifies latitude, longitude, height, scale, gravity, and
orientation throughout the nation. Aviation safety, in particular
the orientation of runways, depends on this system. When the Washington
Monument was covered in scaffolding for renovations in 1999, NGS
surveyors confirmed the height and stability of the structure. NOS
has been a leader in the
introduction of electronic nautical charts which, together with
GPS, has enhanced the safety and efficiency of navigation on the
than a century later NOS has evolved into the nation's principal
advocate for coastal and ocean stewardship. As the trustee for 12
marine protected areas, NOAA protects National Marine Sanctuaries,
which are akin to national underwater parks. Each sanctuary has
a unique goal. While one may protect the breeding ground of humpback
whales, for example, another preserves the remains of historical
shipwrecks, and still another protects thriving coral reef colonies.
Through the sanctuary program, a growing number of partners and
volunteers embrace NOAA's ocean ethic--to preserve, protect and
respect our nation's marine environment.
Data and Satellite Images
the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson acted as an unofficial weather
bureau, collecting records from such distant points as Quebec and
from as far west as the Mississippi. Perhaps Jefferson's data collection
work inspired the Surgeon General of the Army to order hospital
surgeons during the War of 1812 to take observations and keep climatological
NOAA's cooperative weather observers, comprising a network of more
than 10,000 National Weather Service
(NWS) volunteers across the country, continue the tradition
of taking daily weather measurements that become part of our climate
records. These records, along with other records from 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, N.C. The center, the largest active archive
of climate data in the world, is part of NOAA's
National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service
(NESDIS). In addition to the climate center, NESDIS also operates
the National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colo., and the
National Oceanographic Data Center in Silver Spring, Md. Scientists
from around the world use data from these centers to study our environment.
satellite operations grew out of the space program and the desire
to study our earth from a vantage point high in the sky. As NOAA
entered its 30th year, its satellite program celebrated
the 40th anniversary of Tiros-1, the first weather satellite.
In the past 40 years, NOAA's satellites have evolved from weather
satellites to environmental satellites. Data are used for applications
related to the oceans, coastal regions, agriculture, detection of
forest fires, detection of volcanic ash, monitoring the ozone hole
over the South Pole, and the space environment.
Weather Bureau to Weather Service
Congress transferred weather services from the Army to the new Department
of Agriculture in 1890, the Weather Bureau, a new civilian weather
service and ancestor of NOAA's NWS, was born. By the end of the
century the Weather Bureau published its first Washington, D.C.,
weather map (1895), established the first hurricane warning service
(1896) and began regular kite observations (1898). Today's NWS uses
complex technologies such as weather satellites, Doppler radar,
automated surface observing systems, sophisticated computer models,
high-speed communications systems, flying meteorological platforms,
and a highly-trained and skilled workforce to issue more than 734,000
weather and 850,000 river and flood forecasts, and between 45,000
and 50,000 potentially life-saving severe weather warnings annually.
Last summer, the weather service deployed the Advanced Weather Interactive
Processing System, the final piece of technology in a $4.5 billion
modernization program to improve climate, water, and weather products
and services that help protect life and property and enhance the
economy. One estimate is that the NWS's highly accurate long-range
predictions for the 1997-98 El Niño episode, helped California
avert about $1 billion in losses.
data is a national resource. Government agencies, private companies,
the media, universities and the public all use NWS data.
Fisheries and Marine Mammals
fishing industry has been important to the United States since its
earliest days. NOAA's National
Marine Fisheries Service, or NOAA Fisheries, is the direct descendant
of the U. S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries, the nation's first
federal conservation agency, initiated in 1871 to protect, study,
manage and restore fish. Woods Hole, Mass., became home to the first
marine fisheries research lab and is still home to one of NOAA's
five fisheries science centers.
than a century later, NOAA Fisheries' is committed to taking a rational,
scientific approach to the difficult, contentious issues of living
marine resource management. As stewards, NOAA Fisheries manages
for the sustainable use of living marine resources, striving to
public needs and interests in the use and enjoyment of those resources
while preserving their biological integrity. Two recent examples
include international and domestic actions to rebuild swordfish
stocks, working with both industry and conservationists; and developing
an innovative, long-term strategy for restoring threatened and endangered
salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
1882 the U.S.S. Albatross, the first government research vessel
built exclusively for fisheries and oceanographic research, launched
both a future for NOAA's research programs and a fleet of research
vessels. Today, the scientists of NOAA's
Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), along with
their university partners, work to better understand the world in
which we live. OAR is where much of the work is done that results
in better weather forecasts, longer warning lead times for natural
disasters, new products from the sea, and a greater understanding
of our climate, atmosphere and oceans. NOAA research is done not
only in what many would consider traditional laboratories, but also
aboard ships, aloft in planes, and beneath the sea in the world's
only undersea habitat. NOAA research tools can be as high-tech as
supercomputers or as basic as rain gauges. Officers of the NOAA
Corps, the smallest of the seven uniformed services of the United
States, operate NOAA's fleet of research vessels and aircraft.
30th birthday celebrations began in January at the 80th
AMS Annual Meeting in Long Beach, Calif., and have continued throughout
the year. From 19th century beginnings to 30 years as
a Federal agency, NOAA has evolved into a science agency with conservation
management and regulatory responsibilities. The agency looks forward
to the challenges ahead while continuing to observe, monitor, and
collect information about our world in a quest to both protect the
environment and improve the human condition.
NOAA celebrates its 30th anniversary, we are thinking globally,
providing the sound science and service essential to measuring,
managing, and solving many of the nation's and the world's difficult
environmental challenges. The choices made by society and our agency
today will profoundly shape America's economic and environmental
future," said Baker.