National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory


FLC Region

Security Lab



7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
United States

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Laboratory Representative


NOAA' s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) is a federal research laboratory that makes critical oceanic and atmospheric observations and conducts groundbreaking research to advance our knowledge of the global ocean and its interactions with the earth, atmosphere, ecosystems, and climate. Key research areas at PMEL include ocean acidification, tsunami detection and forecasting, hydrothermal vent systems, fisheries oceanography, and long term climate monitoring and analysis. Major accomplishments include the development of the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO)-Triton Array in the tropical Pacific Ocean to help understand and predict El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events, development of Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) buoys and the Short-Term Inundation Forecast for Tsunamis (SIFT) tsunami forecast system, and research linking ocean carbon inventories with ocean acidification.

PMEL was created as a federal environmental research laboratory in 1973 and has become a global leader in the development and management of ocean observing systems, providing an observational backbone that supports a wide array of research and operational activities within NOAA, in other federal agencies, in academia, in the international community. PMEL has developed innovative engineering and IT capabilities to support researchers in their quest to understand the complex relationships between the oceans, atmosphere, cryosphere, and solid earth and to communicate their knowledge to decision-makers and to the public.

PMEL supports and promotes collaborations with researchers outside the Laboratory to extend the availability of its capabilities and opportunities. Whether it is working with academic colleagues to ensure a comprehensive interdisciplinary research project, or working with industry and international partners to extend observational capabilities, an environment of cooperation and collaboration is at the heart of PMEL's operations.

As a publicly funded laboratory, PMEL embraces the concepts of data sharing and an informed public. PMEL aspires to lead the scientific community in generating high-quality, well-documented observations that are openly available. Because PMEL's research will only be important to society if the public has access to the information the Laboratory produces, PMEL strives to bring its data and its scientific insights to a wide array of stakeholders through effective use of information technology and innovative online tools. To best use this information, stakeholders need to understand the implications of this research. Public outreach and education is becoming increasingly important as society addresses a growing range of environmental issues.

PMEL scientists and engineers work side by side with researchers at the Joint Institute for Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) at the University of Washington, Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies (CIMRS) at Oregon State University, the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) at the University of Hawai'i, and the Cooperative Institute for Alaska Research (CIFAR) at the University of Alaska - Fairbanks


NOAA's s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) is a federal laboratory that makes critical observations and conducts groundbreaking research to advance our knowledge of the global ocean and its interactions with the earth, atmosphere, ecosystems, and climate. PMEL's mission is to:

  • observe, analyze, and predict oceanic and atmospheric phenomena,
  • lead the development and deployment of innovative technologies,
  • identify and understand ocean-related issues of major consequence, and
  • inform society with well-documented, high quality science.

Key research areas at PMEL include ocean acidification, tsunami detection and forecasting, hydrothermal vent systems, fisheries oceanography, and long term climate monitoring and analysis.

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Finding a workable balance between enforcing flood control measures and ensuring adequate water reserves has been a perpetual challenge for state, county, and federal agencies. To achieve better balance, an interagency partnership in northern California is now completing a full viability assessment of a novel management strategy informed by sharing state-of-the-art tools from science and technology, and leveraging the expertise of government and university scientists, engineers, and water managers.

An interagency Steering Committee, created in 2014, began exploring methods to optimize water management at Lake Mendocino reservoir. Called Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO), the collaborative study sought improved local water supplies, reduced flood risk, and added ecosystem benefits. Combining the best available computer modeling, advanced climate forecasting, watershed monitoring techniques, and other technical inputs from several science-based agencies, the FIRO partnership reported in a preliminary viability assessment (August 2017) that the new strategy offers significant advances.

FIRO participants share their technologies and knowledge within a complex but robust partnership with impressive results. The FIRO partners include: Center for Western Water and Weather Extremes (CW3E) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego; Sonoma Water; California Department of Water Resources; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service/Earth System Research Laboratory/National Marine Fisheries Service; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The project engages a network of experts in biology, economics, climate, civil engineering, hydrology, meteorology, and computing from federal, state, and local agencies, as well as universities and other stakeholders safeguarding water resources and healthy ecosystems. Transferability potential of the effort is being tested now at additional reservoirs, including Prado Dam in southern California and at Oroville and New Bullards Bar dams in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The FIRO strategy’s use of the best available technology also has wider applicability to any situation balancing weather-affected water supplies, environmental issues, flood risk reduction, and dam safety. More broadly, FIRO is changing the way the study partners and other water and flood management officials expect to integrate emerging R&D from government and nongovernment researchers.

NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Global
Forecast System (GFS) model forecast of integrated water vapor (IWV)
from an atmospheric river (AR) predicted to impact northern California
on 19 January 2017. The term “pineapple express” comes from ARs
frequently appearing to originate near the Hawaiian Islands.

The FLC nominees’ respective institutions are longtime innovators in the specific science, engineering, and technology areas used in developing the FIRO strategy. As examples, a primary mission of the Army Corps of Engineers is planning, designing and operating dams and flood prevention systems. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service is deeply involved in recovery of three endangered fish species that depend on the Russian River, and the agency’s Office of Atmospheric Research leads U.S. research on weather model improvements. Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey have been involved in hydrologic monitoring and research in the Russian River watershed for over a decade, including development of soil moisture monitoring methods and modeling of rainfall, soil moisture, and water flow.

Russian River Watershed

The Russian River watershed encompasses Lake Mendocino, where initial research in flood control, water supply and recreational needs was conducted under the FIRO project. Photo courtesy of NOAA.


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