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The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) is the research agent of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is also referred to as NOAA Research. OAR and its scientists study different aspects of the environment in an effort to understand, protect, and predict climate variability, water resources, and the world’s different ecosystems. The Office has three main research areas: 1)climate, 2)oceans, great lakes, and coasts, and 3) weather and air quality. In 2007 OAR won the Nobel Peace Prize for its work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore in distributing information about the dangers of artificial climate change and its immediacy. This advancement comes in conflict with President Bush’s original stance against the idea of climate change; however, he is now moving forward to accepting the idea with recent reports on preparations to cut greenhouse emissions. (See Controversies).


OAR was formed with the creation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in October 1970, which merged the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Weather Bureau, and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries into one agency. NOAA was placed under the administration of the Department of Commerce by means of the Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1970.
During the 1970s this research branch of NOAA continued to expand its activities including accelerating research on hurricane intensity and movement, a federal-state cooperative program to evaluate the effectiveness of weather modification in Utah and North Dakota, and passing the National Climate Program Act in 1978 to develop a plan with federal and non-federal participants to estimate climate trends and predict future changes. Undersea research also expanded during this time, with the creation of the Manned Undersea Science and Technology Office in 1971; by 1977 they had established the first regional undersea research facility in St. Croix.

With its primary focuses being climate, oceans, great lakes, and coasts, and weather and air quality, OAR continued to make gains in several fields. In 2007, its scientists’

climate model

discovered that warming-induced wind shear changes could impact hurricane development and intensity. Also in 2007, NOAA Research scientists were awarded the

Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

and Vice President Al Gore for their efforts to build up and distribute knowledge about man-made climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was represented by Dr. Susan Soloman of OAR’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), and Dr. Dan Albritton, former director of ESRL’s Chemical Sciences Division. Other

2007 achievements

include launching the first buoy to measure acidification, measuring oceanic methane emissions for climate impact, and continued undersea exploration of the Ring-of-Fire.


What it Does  

NOAA Research studies and predicts changes in the environment through its many components. Its Research Laboratories combine research, technology development, and services to improve our understanding of the world’s environment and how to predict changes. The laboratories have also established collaborative programs with universities and non-profit institutions that form Joint Research Institutes relating to the earth’s oceans, inland waters, intermountain west, atmosphere, and arctic environments.
OAR’s second component is the National Sea Grant College Program that connects the nation’s top universities and research institutions in conducting scientific research, education, and extension projects to understand and use our ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources. Currently, there are 30 programs at locations including the University of Southern California, Scripps Institution at UC San Diego, Louisiana State University, University of Georgia, and the University of Florida.
In addition, the NOAA Undersea Research Program and its scientists explore, sample, and live under the ocean using advanced technologies and techniques. With one national office and six national undersea research centers, scientists use mixed gas scuba diving, underwater remotely operated vehicles and other technologies to study fisheries, diversity of life, and environmental change.
OAR also has a Climate Program Office (CPO), created in 2005, which leads NOAA’s Climate and Global Change Program. CPO incorporates the Office of Global Programs, the Arctic Research Office, and the Climate Observations and Services Program in sponsoring research and climate activities across NOAA aimed at predicting climate variability.
OAR is also involved in many cooperative research partnerships with universities, research institutions, and other branches of NOAA including the Cooperative Institute for Arctic Research in Alaska, the Cooperative Institute for Climate Applications and Research in New York, the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies in Oklahoma, and the Joint Institute for Marine Observations in California.
Research Programs
Research Partnerships

Center for the West Coast and Polar Regions


Where Does the Money Go  



Recently, there has been speculation that the Bush administration has changed and/or ignored data from government scientists regarding global warming and climate change. There has been a major push by scientists and Congress on President Bush to change his opinions and stop pressuring federal scientists to change their information. The follow reports address these issues, including reports that the Government Accountability Project found that 43% of surveyed federal scientists saw edits during review of their work that changed the meaning of their findings. Currently, the Bush administration is changing its position on climate change from disbelief to inviting countries to a climate change summit.
Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming (by Andrew C. Revkin, New York Times)
Bush Seeks Climate Change Talk (by Deb Riechmann, Associated Press)
Suggested Reforms  
Congressional Oversight  
Former Directors  

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Table of Contents

Founded: 1970
Annual Budget: $368 million (2008)

Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
Spinrad, Richard
Previous Assistant Administrator

After graduating from Johns Hopkins University, Richard W. Spinrad earned an M.S. in physical oceanography and a Ph.D. in marine geology from Oregon State University. He began his career as a research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, where his study of the relationship between water clarity and marine biological productivity was critically acclaimed.

Spinrad served as manager of oceanographic research at the Office of Naval Research and was first manager of the Navy’s ocean optics program. He eventually became the Division Director for all of the Navy’s basic and applied research in ocean, atmosphere and space modeling and prediction. By 1994 Spinrad became the Executive Director of the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education, and in 1999 he became the Technical Director to the Oceanographer of the Navy.
Currently, Dr. Spinrad holds positions in many organizations. He is the United States’ permanent representative to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, as well as a co-chair for the White House Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Service and Technology. In addition, Spinrad is the President of the Oceanography Society, a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society. He was once Editor-in-Chief of Oceanography magazine.