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The Environmental Science Services Administration

Within its first year of existence, ESSA had made significant progress toward its task to describe, understand and predict the state of the oceans, the state of the upper and lower atmosphere, and the size and shape of the earth. [15] Building on the capabilities of the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory, the Institutes for Environmental Research were established in Boulder, Colorado. This represented a revolutionary organizational concept which would continue throughout the history of ESSA and NOAA -- the concept of unified mission support for the Agency's program objectives through environmental science and technology development. In all, four Institutes were organized:

The Institute for Telecommunications Sciences and Aeronomy -- formed largely of personnel from the old Central Radio Propagation Laboratory and the Geoacoustics Group of the National Bureau of Standards.

The Institute for Earth Sciences composed of staff from the Research Division of the Coast and Geodetic Survey.

The Institute for Oceanography also composed of C&GS personnel.

The Institute for Atmospheric Sciences staffed largely by meteorologists and other staff from the Weather Bureau's Office of Meteorological Research.

In 1967, the institutes became the ESSA Research Laboratories. The Laboratories, eleven in all, plus one unit still identified as an Institute for Telecommunications Science, and the Research Flight Facility, were the result of a re-structuring designed to more precisely reflect the scope and mission of the individual elements. The eleven laboratories included:

• The Earth Sciences Laboratory
• The Atlantic Oceanographic Laboratory
• The Pacific Oceanographic Laboratory
• The Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry Laboratory
• The Air Resources Laboratory
• The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
• The National Hurricane Research Laboratory
• The National Severe Storms Laboratory
• The Space Disturbances Laboratory
• The Aeronomy Laboratory and
• The Wave Propagation Laboratory.

The National Weather Records Center (established in Asheville, North Carolina in 1951) gave rise to an Environmental Data Center complex with the transfer of the Geodetic and Seismology Data Centers [Ed. Coast and Geodetic Survey Seismology Data Centers] to Asheville in 1966. In many ways, this move and the reorganization of the ESSA laboratories reflect the history of the entire organization during its five years of independent existence. It was a period of "settling in" and "settling down" to the task of addressing an enormous mission -- understanding the global environment.

Much of the excitement associated with that job during the ESSA years involved the beginnings of the operational weather satellite program. During the early years of meteorological satellites, scientists recognized the potential value of a geostationary orbit to provide continuous viewing of weather systems over the U.S. It wasn't until the mid-60's, however, that sufficient rocket power became available to achieve a geostationary orbit. 1966 saw the launch of a NASA operational experiment with early imaging and weather broadcast systems aboard. Joint NASA/ESSA (later NOAA) experimentation would continue until 1974 and 1975 when geostationary weather satellites became an operational reality with the launch of NASA's Synchronous Meteorological Satellites (SMS) 1, 2. These satellites were the prototype for what is now NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) -- the so-called "hurricane-tracking" satellites whose images are so familiar to all of us who watch the nightly news on television.

Now let's take a look at the other programs and organizations which were combined with ESSA in 1980 to create the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Bureau of Commercial Fisheries [16]

Like the Weather Bureau and the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (BCF) has historical roots that date back to the 19th century. In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation establishing a one-man, U.S. Fish Commission charged to:

ascertain whether any and what diminution of food fishes of the coasts and lakes of the United States has taken place; and, if so, to what causes the same is due; and also whether any and what protective, prohibitory or precautionary measures should be adopted... (and) report upon the same to Congress.

Thus began the Federal interest in and commitment to the conservation of living marine resources; a commitment and a responsibility that is largely the same today.

In 1903 the Fish Commission became the Bureau of Fisheries in the new Department of Commerce and Labor. The Bureau remained in Commerce until 1939 when it was transferred to the Interior Department. One year later, the Bureau was consolidated with the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Biological Survey and became the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. With passage of the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956, the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (BCF) became a separate Bureau in the Department of Interior. The organization created by this law remained largely unchanged until 1970 when, as part of Reorganization Plan No. 4, most of its functions were transferred to NOAA and the Bureau's Pesticides Laboratory in Gulf Breeze, Florida was transferred to the new Environmental Protection Agency.

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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