NOAA 24: A Day in the Life

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is working around the clock to save lives and livelihoods in every state across America. “NOAA 24” covers a day in the life of NOAA from midnight to midnight. Here are some example scenarios of the work that NOAA does.

A Category-3 hurricane strikes the Texas Gulf Coast near Houston, Texas. State and federal officials work with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration to assess, set priorities and mitigate hundreds of reported releases of oil and toxic chemicals (including stranded drums) in the Houston Ship Channel. This rapid response is critical to minimizing the harm to the environment and protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems important for the health of local residents and the economy.

Two people are rescued from a life raft after their fishing vessel sank 30 miles east of Atlantic City, New Jersey. NOAA SARSAT satellites relay a distress signal to the U.S. Coast Guard, which rescues the pair in time before their raft sinks in chilly water. In 2005, 222 people in the United States were rescued because of SARSAT in 93 incidents. Saving human life is the highest priority of NOAA.

A European-flagged bulk cargo freighter approaches the port in Chicago, Illinois. In its ballast water, the ship contains several invasive species that could pose a significant threat to the Lake Michigan environment, by colonizing water intake pipes, severely restricting the water flow to power plants or other municipal or private facilities that rely on fresh water. NOAA scientists research ways to control these invasive species and reduce their economic impact.

A Nor’easter blows through the New York Harbor sinking tug boats and maintenance barges into several critical narrow navigation channels, blocking the movement of commercial shipping. NOAA’s Navigation Response Teams conduct a rapid-response hydrographic survey and nautical chart verification and are then able to help the NY-NJ Port Authority to safely reroute ships around the hazards.

Before leaving on a fishing trip, a commercial fisherman uses graphic analysis of sea surface temperatures, sea ice as well as five day sea ice forecasts produced by the Anchorage, Alaska forecast office. The data produced increases both the fishermen’s success and safety.

A Maryland Chesapeake Bay blue-crabber harvests crabs that were spawned in a NOAA supported hatchery. Over the past three years, more than 100,000 crabs have gone from the hatchery into the wild. It’s a start that could lead to ramping up production to rear millions of young crabs to enhance the Bay’s breeding population, which is near record low levels.

NOAA’s Harmful Algal Bloom Forecast Center notifies Brevard County, Florida officials of the development of a red-tide. With that information in hand, local officials close the beaches preventing potential toxic exposure to thousands of beach going families.

A commercial airline pilot arrives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania early after a smooth overnight flight from the West Coast because of an accurate high altitude weather forecast which resulted in the pilot maneuvering around turbulent weather in the Midwest.

A forest manager in Vermont uses NOAA satellite data to track plant diseases and invasive species, as well as monitor soil moisture and meteorology to better predict impacts on, plan and manage Vermont’s forests.

Washington salmon fishermen depart for sea after NMFS increase the commercial and recreational catch limits. NMFS makes this decision based upon sea stock assessments and in-river NOAA monitoring that indicate a strong salmon return.

Managers of the Great Bay New Hampshire National Estuary Reserve take a class of fifth graders on a bird walk that ends with an archaeological dig. Education and outreach is a major function of the 26 National Easturine Research Reserves.

Local port officials and shipping managers in Oakland, California consult NOAA ports information to determine water depths, helping to determine safe loads for container ships. NOAA has developed a real-time decision support tool for mariners and port authorities to increase the capacity of ports and the mobility of the ships navigating these port areas.

A farmer in Iowa uses a long-range seasonal forecast based on data observed in the Pacific Ocean to make his planting and irrigation decisions.


NOAA weather forecasters using technology, developed by NOAA researchers, detect a series of tornadoes in Kansas. A NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio in a farm home alerts a family to an approaching tornado. The family takes refuge in a root cellar and escapes harm.

A Rhode Island municipal zoning department develops a map of coastal hazards using NOAA technology in order to make certain that developers do not build homes in areas prone to coastal flooding.

NOAA staff visit the 110-year-old Steele’s Mill dam in North Carolina to evaluate ways to remove the aging structure, which no longer serves its intended purpose. The removal will open up 15 miles of habitat for spawning shad and will benefit nearby striped bass and sturgeon habitat.

A federal-state task force gives NOAA the go-ahead to construct one of the largest wetland restoration projects on the coast of Louisiana. The project will protect coastal communities from storm waves and create habitat for the Gulf’s economically important fisheries.

A swimmer’s life is saved off the coast of Alabama because of the NOAA rip current warning program. These deadly “rip currents” can drown even the strongest competitive swimmer. The warning program is done in conjunction with state and local authorities.

Kentucky emergency managers are provided with stream forecasts indicating that a peak river flooding stage will occur in several hours, allowing officials to place warning signs at locations where streams tend to flood. The single greatest cause of deaths and injuries in floods come from motorists attempting to drive their vehicles through low water.

A severe storm approaching Norfolk Virginia has the base commander concerned. NOAA’s storm track indicates that the harbor will not be harmed, and thus the Navy saves $5 million by not having to relocate the Norfolk harbor fleet.

A mother in North Dakota buys salmon at the grocery store for her family’s dinner. Because of the NOAA Seafood Inspection Program, the family can eat healthy and safely.

A NOAA team successfully disentangles 100 pounds of fishing line from a humpback whale off the coast of Maui, Hawaii. The team first slowed the whale down using four large buoys and then the removed the gear.

Albuquerque New Mexico weather forecasters issue an air quality alert for the following day based on NOAA data. Elderly residents with respiratory ailments are urged to stay home while the city’s bus system offers free rides to those who opt to keep their automobiles at home.

A small utility company in Jefferson City, Missouri adjusts its electric load based on variables from a NOAA weather forecast. Throughout the year, such adjustments save the utility and local customers $500,000, while reducing harmful emissions.