GRAD is involved in observational and theoretical research of the Earth's surface and atmospheric radiation budgets, and of climate-forcing properties of different types of aerosols. Long-term radiation, meteorological and aerosol measurements are made at diverse globally-remote sites and continental US sites (SURFRAD and SOLRAD). In addition, we make observations of spectral solar radiation for the purpose of remote sensing of certain atmospheric constituents and determination of variations in the UV irradiance.

GRAD also operates the NOAA Federated Aerosol Network (NFAN), whose goal is to characterize means, variability, and trends of climate-forcing properties of different types of aerosols, and to understand the factors that control these properties. These measurements are used for evaluating earth system models and provide ground-truth for satellite measurements.