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:


NOAA STRATEGIC GOAL: Commerce & Transportation

Support the Nation's commerce with information for safe, efficient and environmentally sound transportation.

NOAA supports the nation's commerce and transportation activities by providing information for safe, efficient, and environmentally sound transportation. The role of the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) is to conduct basic phenomenological research, and to develop weather products and services to support users of the Nation's transportation systems.

Statement of need

The traveling public and commercial and private carriers regularly encounter adverse weather conditions on our nation's roadways and in our airspace resulting in significant delays of people and goods, sometimes resulting in injury and death. To be specific, $6 billion annually is lost in economic efficiencies as a result of air traffic delays, of which 70 percent is attributed to weather. Furthermore, adverse weather is associated with over 1.5 million vehicular accidents each year, accounting for approximately 800,000 injuries and 7,000 fatalities. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the injuries, loss of life, and property damage from weather-related crashes cost an average of $42 billion annually.

Snow plows clearing the highway during a winter storm. ESRL's development of monitoring and forecasting tools help the Federal Highways Administration to work with state and local government to keep roads open as much as possible during adverse weather conditions.

ESRL activities

ESRL conducts research and development to support improvements in safety and efficiency to both surface and aviation modes of transportation. Here are several examples:

  • The Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System (MADIS) is a system of computers and software for collecting, quality controlling, integrating, and disseminating observations of surface weather, pavement temperatures, clouds, flight-level winds, turbulence, aircraft icing, and much more.
  • The Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS) is a software package that produces very high-resolution ensembles of forecast models optimized for generating probabilistic surface weather forecast guidance tailored for specific regions of the country.
  • The Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) generates forecast guidance for aviation hazards including thunderstorms, low ceilings, restricted visibility, airframe icing, and turbulence. RUC is also used for frequent updating of flight-level winds that are used by airlines to optimize flight plans for maximum fuel efficiency.
  • Aviation decision support systems such the Traffic Management Unit (TMU) weather display, the Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS), and the Volcanic Ash Coordination Tool (VACT) provide specifically tailored weather products to support operational needs.
  • The Real-Time Verification System (RTVS) produces statistics that measure the quality of the forecast guidance products and decision support products listed above.

Continental U.S. in gray with model predictions of watervapor shown in green for water, tans and reds for supercool water vapor and blue for ice. Output from the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) model is used to provide detailed icing information for use by the Federal Aviation Administration and other aviation interests.

Collaborative Partners

ESRL's work is carried out in close collaboration with the Federal Highways Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Weather Service. Research and development partners include the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, the Department of Defense's Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, and private industry.