December 30, 2017

A New Year’s resolution: help the public learn about NOAA

Posted by Laura Guertin

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. — About NOAA

For those in attendance at the 2017 AGU Fall Meeting, you may have attended the Thursday morning keynote panel, titled Perspectives and Priorities on Earth and Space Science at Four U.S. Federal Agencies – NOAA, NASA, USGS, and NSF. The panel presented their views on the state of science at their agencies, their priorities for the near future, and how science will fare in an era of increasing budget pressures. These agencies were represented by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters; William Easterling, head of the Directorate for Geosciences at the National Science Foundation; RDML Tim Gallaudet, USN Ret., Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator; and William H Werkheiser (via pre-recorded video), acting director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

At the end of the individual agency presentations, the President of AGU asked the panel: What can AGU members do for these agencies? The response by Tim Gallaudet was one I was not surprised to hear – the work of NOAA is less recognized by the public. NOAA plays an important role in oceanic trade/economic security, as well as national security. NOAA’s fleet operations includes ships, aircraft, and divers, all assisting with everything from maritime navigation to sustainable fisheries research.

He shared a specific example of the role NOAA’s satellites and National Weather Service have played, especially with the 2017 North Atlantic hurricane season. In 2017, the United States had twice the property damage of the 2005 hurricane season – but only 1/5 the loss of lives. Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, the 50 inches of rainfall was predicted one week in advance (one week!). Tim Gallaudet wants the public to know that all of the amazing GOES hurricane images come from NOAA – and perhaps more importantly, he wants younger generations to study NOAA fields and enter the NOAA workforce.

NOAA has played such a special role in my own life and professional development. I’ve blogged several times about NOAA, from my time as a NOAA Teacher At Sea to my participation in a NASA/NOAA social media social on the JPSS-1 satellite. I’ve even blogged about the NOAA Science on a Sphere (SOS), and shared my own thoughts on how to make NOAA matter to others. Clearly, there is still more that I can do.

So I am going to take up the call by the Acting NOAA Administrator. One of my New Year’s resolutions this year will be to help spread the word about NOAA, its services and its role as the “environmental intelligence agency” for our nation. Just starting with economic security and national security could be a good way for me to open doors to conversations with others outside of my geo-circle of colleagues and campus students. When I speak at public events this upcoming year (museums, Taste of Science, Nerd Nite, etc.), I’ll be sure to call-out NOAA’s contribution to the data/images I show.

Will you join me? Below are a couple videos/links that are a start – please share on social media, in the classroom, and anywhere and any chance you can. Thanks, AGU members, for helping NOAA get recognized for its contributions!

NOAA’s mission = To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

NOAA’s vision of the future = (1) resilient ecosystems, communities, and economies; and (2) healthy ecosystems, communities and economies that are resilient in the face of change.


NOAA publishes a Winter Outlook – here is the one for 2017-2018 (article on

NOAA also makes hurricane season predictions – here is the one for 2017 North Atlantic season (article on

There are some Best Moments of 2017, according to the NOAA Satellite and Information Service (website)

NOAA is In Your State/Territory (did you know NOAA was doing these activities in your state? Check out the website)

NOAA is on social media, too! Check out this extensive list of NOAA social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, and more!