NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration)
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitors environmental, climatic, and weather conditions in the United States and around the world. The administration manages an extensive network of satellites, sensory aircraft, and specialized monitoring equipment to provide information on meteorological events and their impact. The mission of NOAA is to protect persons, property, national security, and United States economic interests. NOAA also works with foreign meteorological services, international search and rescue units, and independent research scientists.
The administration has several operating divisions responsible for various agency responsibilities and research programs. The National Weather Service (NWS) is perhaps the most well known NOAA operational division. The NWS maintains the most extensive satellite network and meteorological research equipment, providing national, regional, and local weather through a variety of media. NOAA Weather Radio, the voice of the National Weather Service, broadcasts constant weather updates and is linked to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Emergency Broadcast System. Though developed for government use, the radio broadcasts are available to private citizens.
In conjunction with the Department of Defense, NOAA also oversees the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). A key component of aerospace development, the space program, and weapons development, the DMSP organizes the construction, launch, and maintenance of satellites that monitor atmospheric, oceanographic, and solar-terrestrial environments. The DMSP maintains a large network of satellites 1330 miles (about 850 km) above the earth's surface. Data from the satellites is sent to the Air Force Weather Agency, the National Geophysical Data Center, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Another NOAA division, the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NEDIS) provides information on significant environmental events recovered from satellite imagery and other means of remote sensing. The NEDIS also licenses commercial remote sensing satellites, including global positioning systems (GPS). In conjunction with Russia's Cospas satellite system, the NOAA Cospas-Sarsat system can locate lost or endangered individuals through emergency transmissions. NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) detect signals from Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons on boats, airplanes, and other individual vessels, and send information to search and rescue teams. In 2002, nearly 1,500 people were rescued worldwide, most of them at sea.
NOAA's charting and marine safety programs provide information, products, and services that aid marine traffic, commerce, and private use of domestic and international waterways. NOAA creates and distributes tidal and current tables, conducts hydrographic surveys, works closely with several other government agencies to constantly update marine and terrestrial charts and maps. Recently, NOAA began testing International Electronic Navigational Charts, or "smart charts" for private civilian use. Smart Charts work in conjunction with global positioning systems and weather satellites to aid safe navigation. NOAA also develops aeronautical charts used by government and commercial airplanes.
Aside from its role in security, NOAA also funds and conducts research on the global environment and ocean systems. Via satellite and other sensor mechanisms, the administration monitors conditions such as widespread deforestation, ozone depletion, volcanoes, fires, and water pollution. Special attention is paid to the long-term effects of these processes on atmospheric and marine systems and their potential impact on global environments, flora and fauna, climate, and economic systems.
█ FURTHER READING:
United States National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. < http://www.noaa.gov. > (15 January 2003).