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Thursday Keynote Address: The Origins, Milestones,  and Legacy of NOAA's Global Monitoring Laboratory

J.H. Butler

Retired from NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory (GML), Boulder, CO 80305; 303-497-6898, E-mail: james.h.butler@noaa.gov

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the NOAA Global Monitoring Annual Conference.   The conference, organized by NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory, was not always known as the GMAC, but rather as the Annual Meeting, which, like today, included both staff and partners.  The meeting has grown from a couple dozen participants in the early 1970s to over 200 each year in the past decade.  Similarly, GML was not always known as GML.  GML began as an organization as a part of NOAA’s first program plan (NOAA Program 71-1) and from there evolved with a variety of superfluous reorganizations and name changes. 

During this entire time and despite all of the reorganizations, GML has carried out the same fundamental mission, so well stated in its first Summary Report in 1972:  “. . . it is our objective to measure the necessary parameters for establishing trends of trace constituents important to climate change and of those elements that can assist in apportioning the source of changes to natural or anthropogenic sources, or both.”  Although there have been several adjustments over the past 50 years and some rewordings of the mission, this statement has rung true for five decades and presumably will well into the future.  This presentation will provide a brief overview of the origins and development of GML over time, with emphasis on some of the key milestones and accomplishments along the way and its legacy today.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Initially named after the program that created it, Geophysical Monitoring for Climate Change, GMCC for 19 years functioned as a remote Division of NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory (ARL), which was headquartered in Silver Spring, MD.  By 1990, GMCC was reorganized as it became the Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory (CMDL), no longer part of ARL, and underwent several changes in its organization and monitoring networks.  After 16 years as a stand-alone laboratory of NOAA, CMDL was subsumed in 2006 with the other Boulder Laboratories and Centers as a Division of the Earth System Research Laboratory, the ESRL Global Monitoring Division.  After over 12 years the four Divisions of ESRL once again became a NOAA Laboratories, and ESRL/GMD was renamed GML.