Skip to Content

NOAA’s 50th Anniversary!

The roots of NOAA and the formal observation and study of the weather, climate, and oceans in the United States goes back to the early 1800's. However it wasn't until 1970 that NOAA was formally developed and recognized. Below you will find an interesting timeline of some of the major achievements of NOAA during its first decade, the 1970s. This information was provided by NOAA. Enjoy!

  • 1970 NOAA forms within the Department of Commerce, combining Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, Weather Bureau, Coast and Geodetic Survey, Environmental Data Service, National Oceanographic Data Center, National Satellite Center, Research Libraries, and other components.
  • 1970 NOAA’s first polar-orbiting satellite, NOAA-1, is launched into space. The 674-pound satellite would provide detailed cloud imagery and make significant contributions to understanding Earth’s radiation and monitoring space weather.
NOAA-1 provided improved operational infrared and visual observations of earth cloud cover for weather analysis and forecasting.
  • 1971 The Secretary of Commerce establishes the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee to advise on marine fisheries resource issues.
  • 1971 Undersea science research in NOAA begins as the Manned Undersea Science and Technology Office. Coordinated manned research with universities began in 1978 to use submersibles and remote underwater technology to perform underwater marine science research.
  • 1971 First Sea Grant Colleges designated; Texas A&M; University, University of Rhode Island, Oregon State University, and the University of Washington.
  • 1972 The Marine Mammal Protection Act establishes a moratorium on taking marine mammals in U.S. waters.
  • 1972 Congress passes the Coastal Zone Management Act authorizing NOAA to manage the nation’s coastal resources; the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act establishes NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program.
  • 1972 NOAA Corps becomes first uniformed service to recruit women on the same basis as men.
  • 1973 The Endangered Species Act protects species and populations whose numbers are low or declining. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for marine species under the law.
  • 1973 Researchers at the National Severe Storms Laboratory use an experimental Doppler radar in Norman, OK, to follow the entire life cycle of a tornado for the first time. Ongoing research of this type leads to the National Weather Service deploying a nationwide network of Doppler radars in the 1990s.
NSSL's first Doppler Weather Radar located in Norman, Oklahoma.1970s research using this radar led to the NWS NEXRAD WSR-88D radar network.
  • 1973 The Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory forms as a small research laboratory with emphasis on water quality and environmental impact issues in Puget Sound, off the Oregon and Washington coasts, in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea, and in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • 1974 The Palmer Observatory in Alaska, created following a March 1964 earthquake, is transferred to the National Weather Service and renamed the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.
Tsunami damage at Kodiak, Alaska, following the 1964 Good Friday earthquake.
  • 1974 The Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory is established following a joint U.S.-Canada International Field Year of the Great Lakes that focused scientific research on Lake Ontario during 1973.
  • 1974 An outbreak of 148 tornados impacted 13 states and parts of Canada over a 24-hour period, killing 315 people. This outbreak spurs the development of the second generation of weather radars.
  • 1975 GOES-1, the first NOAA-owned and operated geostationary satellite, is launched. These satellites, with their early and close tracking of hurricanes, greatly reduce loss of life from such storms.
Graphic of early GOES satellite in orbit, circa 1975.
  • 1975 The USS Monitor and NOAA: A Look Through TimeThe wreck of famed ironclad USS Monitor is designated as NOAA's first national marine sanctuary.
  • 1975 A P-3 Orion "Hurricane Hunter" is the first new aircraft purchased; "Charlie 39", NOAA DC-6B research aircraft is retired after 321 penetrations of 42 hurricanes.
NOAA acquired two P-3s during the 1970s, and still flies them today.
  • 1976 The Fishery Conservation and Management Act establishes eight regional fishery management councils and a 200-mile fishery conservation zone.
  • 1976 A NOAA researcher develops one of the world’s first systems for mapping the structure and development of lightning inside storms.
  • 1976 The Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory deploys the first successful moored equatorial current meter - the beginning of the Tropical Atmosphere/ Ocean array.
  • 1977 NOAA's Manned Undersea Science and Technology Office establishes the first regional underwater habitat, HYDROLAB.
NOAA's HYDROLAB, based in the Caribbean beginning in the mid-70s, was an underwater lab for researchers.
  • 1977 NOAA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) is established to support laboratories and research needs. ORD would later become the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.
  • 1978 Ocean Pollution Planning Act recognizes need to investigate effects of pollutants on marine environments; begins NOAA's Hazardous Materials Response and Assessment (HAZMAT).
  • 1978 The National Severe Storms Laboratory begins the development of mobile laboratories for severe storm research.
  • 1978 NOAA collaborates with the U.S. Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration on a program demonstrating that Doppler radar improves tornado warnings and measures wind shear. This results directly in the three agencies procuring a nationwide network of Doppler radars.
  • 1978 NOAA Fisheries begins receiving federal funding for the Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program. In 1980, Congress enacted formal program authority to fund fishing industry development projects and expanded this authority in 1983, establishing a minimum percentage of S-K funds to be used to provide financial assistance to projects.
  • 1978 The National Weather Service establishes Center Weather Service Units to help with forecasting for air traffic. NWS meteorologists are embedded in each of the 21 FAA Air Route Traffic Control Centers to enhance critical weather dissemination within the National Airspace System.
  • 1979 The National Weather Service deploys the Automation of Field Operations and Services (AFOS) computer system, connecting most of its offices. AFOS is the most ambitious computer network created at the time, setting records for volume of data and number of entry points, while supporting a full range of word processing and other capabilities.
The Automation of Field Operations and Services, proposed in 1974, used minicomputers at approximately 200 NWS offices with alphanumeric and graphic displays to view weather maps and compose forecasts and warnings.

Tony Schumacher

Lead Evening Meteorologist at WAOW-TV and Chief Meteorologist / Owner of Great Lakes Weather Service, LLC. A Wisconsin native with over 25 years experience in weather forecasting and broadcast.

Skip to content