NOAA Historical Resources

For those interested in learning more about NOAA's history beyond the information included on this Web site, we have assembled a list of NOAA Web sites that contain historical information. The Web sites are listed below, organized by topic.



NOAA History

The NOAA History Web site is maintained by the NOAA Central Library. It is the result of the work of many individuals throughout NOAA who have been inspired by the work of NOAA's ancestor agencies. By providing detailed histories of these agencies, biographic sketches of staff, and stories from times of war and peace, this site records the enormous economic impact NOAA and its ancestor organizations have had on our nation. The site also includes access to NOAA's extensive Photo Library and a section on art and poetry from NOAA's archives.


NOAA and the Preserve America Initiative

Through the Preserve America Initiative, NOAA is working to preserve its heritage resources, from historic maps and charts to buildings and shipwrecks, and making them accessible to the public through innovative programs and partnerships. On this Web site, you can learn more about the program and how to become involved, including exhibits to visit and grants to fund projects highlighting NOAA's heritage.


NOAA's 30th Anniversary Web Site

During 2000, NOAA celebrated its 30th anniversary as a federal agency. The information contained on this site was created as part of that celebration and includes stories, a timeline, a celebration video, and information about NOAA employees with 30 years of service.


NOAA Historical Background

This online article, maintained by NOAA Public Affairs, provides a general overview of the history of NOAA and its components, starting with the founding of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 and moving to the present-day.



NOAA's Environmental Satellites: A History

This Web site traces the history of NOAA's satellite systems, starting in 1960 with the launch of the nation's first weather satellite and moving through various stages of evolution of NOAA's satellite program. Visitors can also access some of the earliest satellite images from this site.


Selected Publications on TIROS Satellite and Satellite Meteorology Available at the NOAA Central Library Network

The TIROS Bibliography (pdf, 810 Kb) was originally prepared in April 2000 to mark the 40th anniversary of the launch of  TIROS I, the world's first weather satellite. This current version of the Bibliography, revised and enlarged as of January 2007, includes selected, unique, printed and online resources on TIROS, other meteorological satellites, and satellite meteorology from the NOAA Central Library’s collection. This revised document also provides full-text access to some of the listed items and has been enhanced with the addition of a section of Internet resources. It is published online under LISD Current Reference Series 2007-2.


Oceans and Coasts

History of NOAA Ocean Exploration

On this Web site, you can read essays about the history of ocean exploration by NOAA's ancestor agencies within the historical context of major discoveries and innovations, such as the famous British Challenger expedition. Content is divided into four time periods, starting in 1807 and culminating in 1970. The site also provides a detalied historical timeline that includes key dates and associated events described in the historical essays.


About Water Levels, Tides, and Currents

This site provides an overview of what causes tides and reviews the history of tidal analysis and prediction and tide-predicting machines. The site also includes a discussion of some of the challenges associated with measuring water currents.


Office of Coast Survey's Historical Map and Chart Collection

This collection contains over 20,000 downloadable maps and charts from the late 1700s to present day. The collection includes some of the nation's earliest nautical charts, hydrographic surveys, topographic surveys, geodetic surveys, city plans, and Civil War battle maps.


Office of Coast Survey's Historical Coast Pilots

The United States Coast Pilot, which is a series of nautical books that cover a variety of information important to navigators of coastal waters, has a history extending back to 1796. This site includes digitized versions of a significant portion of NOAA's Coast Pilot collection, starting with the first edition published in 1796.


Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve: Maritime History

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve encompasses 448 square miles of northwest Lake Huron, off the northeast coast of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. This page describes Thunder Bay's important place in Great Lakes maritime history and includes links to additional information about the maritime history of the Thunder Bay region.


Annual Reports of the Coast Survey

This site provides access to the annual reports of the Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1852 to 1950, available in pdf format. These reports contain lists of officers and work parties and reports and correspondence on the various operations of the Survey for that year.


Lewis and Clark Bicentennial

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson sent an expedition westward to find and map a transcontinental water route to the Pacific Ocean. With approval from Congress, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark embarked on their legendary three-year journey to explore the uncharted West. To honor Lewis and Clark's contributions to mapping, NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey installed a series of commemorative marks along the route that Lewis and Clark traveled, beginning in Monticello, Virginia, and ending at Fort Clatsop, Oregon. This Web site provides information about where and when marks were set.


Weather and Climate

A Brief History of the Storm Prediction Center

The Storm Prediction Center issues tornado and severe thunderstorm watches for the 48 contiguous states and produces regularly scheduled severe weather outlooks and updates on various forms of hazardous weather including heavy rain and winter storms. This site traces the history of storm prediction back to the development of a centralized weather forecast program by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1870.


National Severe Storms Laboratory: 40th Anniversary Celebration

In 2004, NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) celebrated its 40th anniversary. On this site, you'll find materials from the celebration, including stories from NSSL's past, a review of lab historical accomplishments, and a photo collection.


U.S. Daily Weather Maps

This site provides access to historical daily weather maps, starting with early maps published by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1871 thru maps published in 2002 by NOAA's National Weather Service.


History of the National Weather Service

This site presents the history of NOAA's National Weather Service, broken up into several sections, including those days before the creation of the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1870. The site provides links allowing visitiors to explore the early pioneers of weather forecasting in this country and to view a detailed historical timeline.


U.S. Joint Numerical Weather Prediction Unit: A Selected Bibliography

This bibliography (pdf, 354 Kb) has been prepared by the NOAA Central Library on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Operational Numerical Weather Prediction. The focus of this selection is on the early publications in numerical weather prediction, mainly by the staff members of the U.S. Joint Numerical Weather Prediction Unit and later by the National Meteorological Center. Most of the included publications are available in print in the NOAA Central Library. Many early publications have been scanned and are available online in full text (in pdf format), either directly online via the bibliography or through NOAALINC, the library's online catalog. Some of the entries are accompanied by an abstract.


Pioneers in Modern Meteorology and Climatology: Vilhelm and Jacob Bjerknes: A Selected Bibliography

This document (pdf, 403 Kb) was prepared to present the NOAA Central Library's selection of documents pertaining to Vilhelm (1862-1951) and Jakob (1897-1975) Bjerknes, father and son, whose works pioneered modern numerical meteorology and climatology.  The bibliography contains printed publications and Internet resources by and on Bjerknes significant to the history of meteorology and to this great family legacy of scholars. The entries are arranged alphabetically by title. This publication was presented by the Library staff during the Conference of the International Commission on History of Meteorology, Polling, Germany, 2004.



Hurricane Research Division History

The National Hurricane Research Project was created as part of the U.S. Weather Bureau in 1955 to conduct research into hurricanes in hopes of improving scientific understanding of them and improve hurricane forecasting. The Hurricane Research Division continues today as NOAA's focus for hurricane research with improvements in computer forecasts and improved knowledge of hurricane climatology in a changing world. This Web site provides a detailed history of the Division, including discussions of major projects and people that impacted NOAA hurricane research over the years.


Air Resources Laboratory History

This site traces the history of the Air Resources Laboratory, whose origins go back to 1948, as the Special Projects Section (SPS) of the U.S. Weather Bureau. SPS was set up to serve as an interface between the research needs of other agencies and the meteorological products provided by the Weather Bureau. Links in the left-hand navigation column provide access to histories of aspects of the Lab, including the Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division, Field Research Division, and the Special Operations and Research Division.


Aircraft Operations Center History

This page provides a brief overview of the history of the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, which operates, modifies, and maintains NOAA’s fleet of research aircraft.


International Polar Year 2007-2008: Resources on Polar Research in the NOAA Central Library Network: A Selected Bibliography

The Polar Bibliography (pdf, 2.1 MB) has been prepared to support International Polar Year (IPY) activities during International Polar Years 2007 and 2008. It reflects the NOAA Library Network's unique printed and online resources on exploration and research in the Polar Regions from the 18th century to the present. This comprehensive bibliography is organized by title and contains all formats, including print, CD-ROM, online full-text documents, digital videos and images, online cruise data, and Web resources. The publication provides full-text access to significant Polar documents in the NOAA Library collections. Over 150 of these unique historically valuable documents were selected, cataloged, imaged, and entered into NOAALINC, the library's online catalog to assure online, open access to their full-text files.  The Bibliography is also published online under LISD Current Reference Series 2006-1 and is available to the international community via the NOAA Central Library's home page and NOAALINC. This publication is also available through the NOAA-IPY, US-IPY, and the Official International IPY Web sites.



Fisheries Historical Page

This Web site traces the history of federal efforts to study, manange, and restore fisheries. The site includes photos, published articles, essays, and classic fisheries publications. The site also includes a timeline—broken up by decade—detaling events starting in 1870 thru 2000.


The National Marine Fisheries Service Album of Historical Images

This album highlights two atlases of images of the George Brown Goode study of the state of the American fisheries in the 1880s. Included are over 500 beautiful etchings of various species of marine mammals, fish, and shellfish that were considered to be of economic value at that time and also of the state of fishing vessels, fishing gear, fishing methods, and fish processing.


Northwest Fisheries Science Center 70th Anniversary Brochure

In 2001, the Northwest Fisheries Science Center celebrated its 70th anniversary. This brochure (pdf, 5428kb) provides an overview of the history of fisheries science and research and first-hand accounts from NOAA scientists on their experiences as fishery scientists.