Bringing Research and Business Together for Colorado

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them.

From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product. NOAA’s dedicated scientists use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision makers with reliable information they need when they need it.

NOAA's roots date back to 1807, when the Nation’s first scientific agency, the Survey of the Coast, was established. Since then, NOAA has evolved to meet the needs of a changing country. NOAA maintains a presence in every state and has emerged as an international leader on scientific and environmental matters.

NOAA has offices in Denver, Boulder, Niwot, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Pueblo, and Longmont, with the principal research lab facility in Boulder.

NOAA’S mission for the 21st century is “to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment and conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our Nation’s economic, social, and environmental needs.” To fulfill its mission, NOAA has defined four interrelated goals:

  • Protect, restore, and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources through ecosystem-based management
  • Understand climate variability and change to enhance a society’s ability to plan and respond
  • Serve society’s needs for weather and water information
  • Support the Nation’s commerce with information for safe, efficient, and environmentally sound transportation.

Boulder Lab Facilities

Earth Systems Research Laboratory (ESRL)

In October 2005, six NOAA research organizations were consolidated into one unit, the Earth Systems Research Laboratory (ESRL). Its mission is to observe and understand the Earth system and to develop products through a commitment to research that will advance NOAA’s environmental information and services on global-to-local scales. ESRL is organized into four divisions - Global Monitoring, Physical Sciences, Chemical Sciences, and Global Systems. The work of these divisions focuses on understanding climate processes and trends, providing climate information related to water management decisions, improving weather prediction, understanding the recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer, and developing air quality forecast models. Main research partners include the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, NASA, National Center for Atmospheric Research, the U.S. Department of Energy, and many partners within NOAA.

ESRL is headquartered in Boulder with subordinate labs located throughout the state. The Surface Radiation Measurement Network, Forecast Verification, and Operational Systems for Weather Forecasting operate out of Boulder. A Cooperative Global Air Sampling station is located in Niwot, and Operational Weather Forecasting Systems operate in Fort Collins and Pueblo. ESRL also operates a carbon emission monitoring system in Longmont that uses an airplane for recording high-altitude samples. Statewide, ESRL supports the Experimental Seasonal Fire Danger Outlook and the Experimental Climate Services that forecast long-term river patterns.

Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC)

This facility reports both to NOAA and the National Weather Service, with the responsibility to monitor and forecast the weather above our atmosphere. Solar storm activities can affect people and equipment working in the space environment, such as satellite systems that can be damaged or destroyed if caught unprepared for a solar storm. SWPC also issues public notifications of extreme cases where some storms can affect communication and navigation equipment on the earth’s surface. SWPC collects a majority of its data from satellites monitoring solar winds, x-rays, and other emissions from the Sun. SWPC was formerly called the Space Environment Center and is jointly operated with the U.S. Air Force. The SWPC is located with the National Weather Service in the NOAA complex in Boulder.

SWPC is focusing on the coming solar cycle peak, an 11-year cycle of the Sun’s magnetic fields and sunspots that can have varying impacts on the Earth. The center works with many worldwide organizations, including the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado, to develop suitable predictions of what to expect in terms of the solar cycle’s impact on climate and technology.

National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS)

As another direct NOAA subsidiary, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), works as the technology operation branch of NOAA. NESDIS is responsible for monitoring and supporting all of NOAA’s highly specialized and technological equipment and machinery, including 16 satellites currently in orbit.

Three divisions are located in Colorado: (1) the NOAA Library and Information Services, providing scientific, technical, and legislative information that focuses mainly on marine and coastal geographic information; (2) the National Geophysical Data Center,, specializing in geophysical data describing solid earth, marine, solar-terrestrial environments and earth observations from space; (3) the National Climatic Data Center,, devoted to paleoclimatic data that assists NOAA in understanding climate variability and change.

National Weather Service (NWS)

The National Weather Service forecasts the U.S. weather and issues weather-related warnings and watches. The National Weather Service (NWS) provides weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters, and ocean areas. Operated by NOAA, the NWS operates several Weather Forecast Offices across Colorado and around the nation. Each location provides the most up-to-date weather and flood warnings, daily forecasts, and meteorologic and hydrologic data for a given area. The NWS also collects data from each station to produce its national and regional forecasts. In Colorado, the NWS stations are located in Boulder, Grand Junction, and Pueblo. In addition, the Center Weather Service Unit, located in the regional Federal Aviation Administration’s Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) in Longmont, provides ARTCC employees with data used in directing aviation traffic.