NOAA Research History

Welcome to NOAA's Office of Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Interactive History!

NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) serves as the primary research arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and maintains a strong history of pre-eminent and innovative research. The origins of OAR date back more than 200 years with the creation of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson. ;xNLx;;xNLx;The Coast Survey, which became the U.S Lake Survey office in 1841, was developed to undertake “a hydrographic survey of northwestern [Great] lakes.” Research executed by the scientists of this group was innovative and holistic: the first current meters were developed to understand water flow rates, and forecasting techniques were greatly enhanced to predict water levels and the relationship to lakefront property. The same traits of world class, long-term research continue to define OAR today.

OAR's Beginning

The U.S. Lake Survey office is established with the first great influx of settlers to the Great Lakes with a mission to undertake “a hydrographic survey of the northern and northwestern lakes,” the role and responsibility of the Lake Survey grows as conditions on the Great Lakes change over the following 165 years. The need to study the velocity of water flow results in the development of current meters. When erosion of beaches threatens to destroy valuable lakefront property, extensive studies determine the causes. In order to more accurately predict the water levels of the Great Lakes, special forecasting techniques evolve. In 1970 the U.S. Lake Survey becomes part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). GLERL is formed by combining both the U.S. Lake Survey with its congressional mandate to study water and ice flow and produce water level forecasts and the International Field Years in the Great Lakes Office which was mandated to conduct studies directed at obtaining a better knowledge of the factors that affect the dispersal of pollutants in the lakes; thus, the beginnings of a truly multi-disciplinary environmental laboratory.

Central Radio Propagation Lab

The Central Radio Propagation Lab in Boulder, Colorado, is established to focus on wartime experiences with radio communications. Research in telecommunications sciences, aeronomy, earth sciences, oceanography, and atmospheric sciences will lead to the establishment the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) in 1965.

Wind Farm Effects On Coastline Studied

Sea Grant scientists at the University of Rhode Island (URI) develop an ocean Special Area Management Plan with standards to measure wind farm effects off the state’s coast. NOAA, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Energy announced a $745,000 grant for the researchers to help develop procedures for any offshore renewable energy projects sited for federal waters.

PMEL Deploys First Buoy Mooring

PMEL deploys first equatorial mooring.

Two 3-cm Wavelength Doppler Radars Built

Roger Lhermitte now working at the Wave Propagation Laboratory, later known as the Environmental Technology Laboratory, builds two 3-cm wavelength Doppler radars that become operational and will become an important component in operational weather forecasting and analysis.

Special Projects Branch of Weather Bureau Created

The Special Projects Branch of the Weather Bureau is created, with Dr. Lester Machta as its leader. The intent is to assist national security endeavors requiring meteorological input.

Atmospheric Turbulence & Diffusion Division (ATTD)

The Weather Bureau’s Special Projects Research Office creates, the Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division (ATTD) under Atomic Energy Commission sponsorship in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. ATDD will later be house within the Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) and serves as a source of meteorological information and expertise for the Department of Energy and its contractors in Oak Ridge. ATDD's main function is to perform air quality related research directed toward issues of national and global importance.

First Operational Tornado Forecast

The first operational tornado forecast is made on March 25, 1948 from Tinker Air Force Base Weather Station in Oklahoma by Captain Robert C. Miller, under the command of Major Ernest J. Fawbush.

President Eisenhower Dedication

President Eisenhower dedicates Boulder, CO laboratories.

Global Hawk Flies Into Hurricane Earl

Hurricane Earl marked the first flight of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), NASA’s Global Hawk, above a fully developed tropical cyclone. AOML and NASA researchers collected data and images of Earl at 60,000 feet. UASs are an important experimental observational technology because they can reach areas too dangerous or too difficult for humans to access.

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