Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research

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Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
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Agency overview
Formed1841;181 years ago (1841)
Headquarters Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S. [1]
MottoOAR's Vision is to deliver NOAA’s future.
OAR's Mission is to conduct research to understand and predict the Earth’s oceans, weather and climate, to advance NOAA science, service and stewardship and transition the results so they are useful to society.
Agency executives
  • Craig McLean, Assistant Administrator
  • Ko Barrett, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Programs and Administration
  • Dr. Gary Matlock, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes
Remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer being prepared for deployment on the Okeanos aft deck. Image courtesy of NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas. Deep Discoverer on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.jpg
Remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer being prepared for deployment on the Okeanos aft deck. Image courtesy of NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas.

Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) is a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). OAR is also referred to as NOAA Research.


NOAA Research is the research and development arm of NOAA and is the driving force behind NOAA environmental products and services aimed at protecting life and property and promoting sustainable economic growth. Research, conducted by programs within NOAA and through collaborations outside NOAA, focuses on enhancing the understanding of environmental phenomena such as tornadoes, hurricanes, climate variability, changes in the ozone layer, El Niño/La Niña events, fisheries productivity, ocean currents, deep sea thermal vents, and coastal ecosystem health.

The origins of NOAA Research date back more than 200 years with the creation of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson. 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 science and technology that NOAA Research produces is not only relevant to society, it anticipates and responds to partners’ needs to demonstrates the value of technologies so that partners can deploy them into their applications. OAR works with end-users to integrate mature technologies (and associated expertise) into larger systems, either in NOAA operations or partner applications, via testbeds, patents, etc.


NOAA Research is an open research network consisting of seven federal research laboratories, six program offices, sixteen Cooperative Institutes (which are non-federal, non-profit research institutions in 5-10 year collaborative partnerships with NOAA), and 33 university based Sea Grant programs. OAR also relies on work performed at numerous public, private, and academic institutions.

Weather Program Office includes the Earth Prediction Innovation Center, created by Congress in 2018 to improve collaboration with academia and private companies.

Research activities

NOAA Research has three primary research areas: Climate; Weather and Air Chemistry; and Ocean, Coasts, and the Great Lakes. Both in-house and external scientists:

Research plans and products are developed in partnership with academia and other federal agencies, and are peer-reviewed and widely distributed.

Climate Research

NOAA's research laboratories, Climate Program Office, and research partners conduct research into complex climate systems and how they work. The aim of this research is to predict climate variation in the shorter term, for example, cold spells or periods of drought, and over longer terms, such as centuries and beyond.

NOAA scientists are at the forefront of studying climate change and modeling what the effects will be on the Earth. Researchers at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) have developed the Coupled Hydrosphere-Atmosphere Research Model (CHARM) to enable a valid assessment of the impact of how climate change might affect the climate and ecology of the Great Lakes. The CHARM model provides a realistic surface-atmosphere feedback portrayal, and accounts for runoff from land surfaces. It allows researchers to predict that global warming likely will bring higher temperatures and increased precipitation to the Great Lakes. Development of a second generation of CHARM is underway to help answer questions about greenhouse warming effects on Great Lakes water quantity.

NOAA researchers closely monitor the Earth's atmosphere searching for clues about long-term changes in the global climate. The data collected worldwide by NOAA researchers contributes to the understanding of complex climatic systems and the ability to forecast changes.

Weather and Air Chemistry Research

NOAA Research organizations conduct research on the upper and lower atmosphere as well as the space environment. Their findings form the basis for NOAA's contributions to major national and international environmental programs and agreements.

For instance, improvements in forecast and warning services provided by the National Weather Service are a direct result of NOAA research. Improvements in numerical modeling, observations gathered by satellites and Doppler weather radars (NEXRAD), and sophisticated weather warning and information processing and communications systems, have collectively led to significantly improved severe weather forecasts and warnings.

Other research programs focus on observation and study of the chemical and physical processes of the atmosphere, detecting the effects of pollution on those processes and monitoring and forecasting the phenomena affecting the Sun-Earth environment.

Ocean, Coasts & the Great Lakes Research

NOAA Research, in cooperation with its research partners, explores and investigates ocean habitats and resources. The findings of NOAA researchers contribute to the management of fisheries, conservation of coastlines, and development of a stronger economy through marine products and businesses, such as biotechnology and sustainable aquaculture.

NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) in Seattle, Washington, designed Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART-II) technology, which provides two-way communication capabilities, allowing engineers the ability to troubleshoot these systems from the lab and repair them remotely when possible. This capability minimizes system downtime, especially in the harsh winter conditions of the North Pacific, and reduces costs by not having to deploy a ship to make repairs.


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The 10 laboratories that are part of NOAA Research are located throughout the United States near their areas of focus.

The NOAA Research Laboratories conduct an integrated program of research, technology development, and services to improve the understanding of Earth's atmosphere, oceans and inland waters, and to describe and predict changes occurring to them. The laboratories and their field stations are located across the country and around the world.

The laboratories have established formal collaborative agreements with universities/non-profit research institutions to form joint research institutes pertaining to the earth's oceans, inland waters, intermountain west, atmosphere, and arctic environment.

Scientific reviews are conducted every five years to evaluate the quality, relevance, and performance of research conducted at the OAR laboratories. These reviews help to strategically position laboratories in their planning of future science and are intended to ensure that OAR laboratory research is linked to the NOAA Next Generation Strategic Plan, remains relevant to the NOAA research mission and its priorities, and is consistent with NOAA planning, programming, and budgeting processes.

Joint Institute research partners

NOAA Research partners with research-oriented universities and institutions to share data and resources to advance the goals of NOAA.

Related Research Articles

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration US government scientific agency

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is an American scientific and regulatory agency within the United States Department of Commerce that forecasts weather, monitors oceanic and atmospheric conditions, charts the seas, conducts deep sea exploration, and manages fishing and protection of marine mammals and endangered species in the U.S. exclusive economic zone.

Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory American physics research center

The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) is a laboratory in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). The current director is Dr. Venkatachalam Ramaswamy. It is one of seven NOAA Research Laboratories (RLs).

Environmental Modeling Center United States weather agency

The Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) is a United States Government agency, which improves numerical weather, marine and climate predictions at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), through a broad program of research in data assimilation and modeling. In support of the NCEP operational forecasting mission, the EMC develops, improves and monitors data assimilation systems and models of the atmosphere, ocean and coupled system, using advanced methods developed internally as well as cooperatively with scientists from universities, NOAA laboratories and other government agencies, and the international scientific community.

Index of meteorology articles

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Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory

The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), a federal research laboratory, is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), located in Miami in the United States. AOML's research spans tropical cyclone and hurricanes, coastal ecosystems, oceans and human health, climate studies, global carbon systems, and ocean observations. It is one of seven NOAA Research Laboratories (RLs).

Air Resources Laboratory

The Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) is an air quality and climate laboratory in the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) which is an operating unit within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States. It is one of seven NOAA Research Laboratories (RLs). In October 2005, the Surface Radiation Research Branch of the ARL was merged with five other NOAA labs to form the Earth System Research Laboratory.

The Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) is a federal laboratory in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). It is one of seven NOAA Research Laboratories (RLs). The PMEL is split across two sites in the Pacific Northwest, in Seattle, Washington and Newport, Oregon.

Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research Organization

The Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, formerly known as the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research, fosters research collaborations between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), Michigan State University (MSU), and the University of Michigan (UM). It is one of 16 NOAA Cooperative Institutes (CIs).

Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies

The Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies is a research organization created in 1978 by a cooperative agreement between the University of Oklahoma (OU) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). CIMMS promotes collaborative research between NOAA and OU scientists on problems of mutual interest to improve basic understanding of mesoscale meteorological phenomena, weather radar, and regional climate to help produce better forecasts and warnings that save lives and property. CIMMS research contributes to the NOAA mission through improvement of the observation, analysis, understanding, and prediction of weather elements and systems and climate anomalies ranging in size from cloud nuclei to multi-state areas.

National Weather Center Building in Oklahoma, United States

The National Weather Center (NWC), on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, is a confederation of federal, state, and academic organizations that work together to better understand events that take place in Earth's atmosphere over a wide range of time and space scales. The NWC partners give equal attention to applying that understanding to the development of improved observation, analysis, assimilation, display, and prediction systems. The National Weather Center also has expertise in local and regional climate, numerical modeling, hydrology, and weather radar. Members of the NWC work with a wide range of federal, state, and local government agencies to help reduce loss of life and property to hazardous weather, ensure wise use of water resources, and enhance agricultural production. They also work with private sector partners to develop new applications of weather and regional climate information that provide competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences Research institute

The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) is a research institute that is sponsored jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) and the University of Colorado Boulder (CU). CIRES scientists study the Earth system, including the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, and geosphere, and communicate these findings to decision makers, the scientific community, and the public.

Earth System Research Laboratory Research facility in Boulder, Colorado, United States

The Earth System Research Laboratories (ESRL) is an alliance of four NOAA scientific labs, all located in the David Skaggs Research Center on the Department of Commerce campus in Boulder, Colorado. Organized under NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, ESRL scientists pursue cutting-edge research around the world to continually advance scientific understanding of weather, climate, air quality, water resources, and other components of the Earth system.

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Environmental Science Services Administration

The Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) was a United States Federal executive agency created in 1965 as part of a reorganization of the United States Department of Commerce. Its mission was to unify and oversee the meteorological, climatological, hydrographic, and geodetic operations of the United States. It operated until 1970, when it was replaced by the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) is a research institute where scientists study the use of data from geostationary and polar orbit weather satellites to improve forecasts of weather (including tropical cyclones and severe storms. CIMSS was formed through a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. CIMSS parent organization, the Space Science and Engineering Center is a primary developer and operator of environmental satellite technologies.

Northern Gulf Institute

The Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Cooperative Institute started in October 2006. It is one of 20 NOAA Cooperative Institutes (CIs). The NGI is a partnership of six academic institutions and NOAA. The collaboration led by Mississippi State University (MSU), includes the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), Louisiana State University (LSU), Florida State University (FSU), the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL). The NGI defines the Northern Gulf of Mexico region as the upland, watershed, coastal zone, and coastal ocean areas from the Sabine River in Louisiana east to the Suwannee River in Florida.

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Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2013

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The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), an agency of the United States government, manages one of the world's largest archives of atmospheric, coastal, geophysical, and oceanic data, containing information that ranges from the surface of the sun to Earth's core, and from ancient tree ring and ice core records to near-real-time satellite images.

Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017

The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 is a law providing for weather research and forecasting improvement, weather satellite and data innovation, and federal weather coordination.


  1. "About NOAA Research".
  2. "Labs and Cooperative Institutes > Locations > jimar > cipir". Retrieved 2016-02-02.