NOAA Goals
NOAA sets the following Goals to meet our Nation's economic, social and environmental needs:
Understand climate variability and change.
Weather & water
Serve society's needs for weather and water information.
Protect, restore, and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources.
Commerce & transportation
Support the Nation's commerce with information for safe, efficient and environmentally sound transportation.
Supporting NOAA's mission
Provide critical support for NOAA's mission.

Additional ESRL links:



Understand climate variability and change.

The NOAA Climate Forcing Program

The objective of NOAA's Climate Forcing Program is to better quantify information on the impact of various atmospheric trace constituents on changes in the Earth's climate. Specifically, the Program seeks to provide the understanding needed to link emissions of climate-altering chemicals to the radiative forcing of climate change, which is key science-based decision support. As the figure indicates, examples of the atmospheric constituents being studied include carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, water vapor, methane, ozone, soot, and other fine-particles (aerosols).

Figure showing the warming or cooling effect of different agents in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, chemically active greenhouse gases, and aerosols. ESRL scientists study many of the radiative forcing agents in the atmosphere that can have a tendency to either warm or cool the climate over the long term.

The Program's goal is a predictive understanding of the global climate system on time scales of weeks to decades with quantified uncertainties sufficient for making informed and reasoned decisions. A hallmark of the Program is not only carrying out the research to obtain the new scientific information, but also to provide information to the "customer" via state-of-understanding assessments in a user-friendly policy-support format.

ESRL Contributions

The Climate Forcing Program has four major long-term outcomes. The Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) has tailored a major part of its research to assuring that these outcomes are met:

  1. Improved understanding of atmospheric carbon dioxide trends for policy support and quantified carbon emission and uptake processes to form the needed input to climate-model improvements. ESRL monitors carbon dioxide trends from sites around the world and focuses on measuring and understanding carbon dioxide uptake in North America.
  2. New information on the climate roles of the radiatively important fine-particle aerosols, with an emphasis on aerosol-cloud interaction (the most uncertain of the climate forcing agents), and non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases to provide decision support associated with options for potential near-term changes in radiative forcing of climate change. ESRL scientists characterize the climate-related properties and processes of tropospheric ozone and aerosols in both the laboratory setting (in Boulder) and with field campaigns in key regions of the world. ESRL also measures the trends in several other greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor.
  3. Verification and understanding of the recovery of the ozone layer and the decline of ozone-depleting chemicals in the atmosphere, thereby facilitating compliance with the U.N. Montreal Protocol and its safeguarding the Earth's ultraviolet shield. ESRL observes worldwide trends in both the ozone layer and in ozone-depleting chemicals, as well as surface radiation. ESRL also carries out laboratory and field studies to characterize the atmospheric chemical and dynamical processes involved, which are crucial input to diagnostic and prognostic ozone-layer models.
  4. Near-term and mid-term decision support information and assessments of the current understanding of the change in the radiative forcing of the climate system and the recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer.

ESRL scientists not only provide key scientific results, but also serve in several leadership roles in producing decision-support products:

  • Science Advisor to the quadrennial Scientific Assessments of Ozone Depletion of the U.N. Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer.
  • Leadership and authorship in the Science Working Group for the climate change assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC)
  • Leadership and contributors to the carbon cycle, aerosol-climate, and ozone-layer decision-support products of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP).

End-Users and Beneficiaries

  • Academia: Complementary partnerships with NOAA researchers and collaborative use of NOAA ships and aircraft. Collaborative research with NOAA Cooperative Institutes. Benefits to Academia: Data, scientific knowledge, resources to carry out research, and educational material/resources.
  • Industry: Information about "ozone friendliness" and "climate friendliness" of potential new chemical products prior to decisions and expenses associated with production. Contracts for research-related industry services, such as aircraft, chemicals, field equipment, and facility leasing. Benefits to Industry: Key scientific information for their finance-related decision. Receipt of money for the business.
  • International, Federal, state, and local government agencies: Science-based information on gases and aerosols that is decision-support information needed to characterize options for altering radiative forcing, in both the near term (short-lived species like aerosols) and the longer term (carbon dioxide) in effective and efficient ways. Benefits to government agencies: Key decision support information and scientific know-how.