Our origins trace back to the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory (CRPL) of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in the U.S. Department of Commerce (USDOC). A new facility was built for CRPL in Boulder, Colorado, and dedicated by President Eisenhower in September 1954. The USDOC Boulder Laboratories commenced.
In 1965 the United States Federal executive agency created the U.S. Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) as part of a reorganization of the USDOC. CRPL was renamed the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences and Aeronomy (ITSA) and joined the Institutes for Environmental Research (IER) under ESSA. Its mission it was to oversee the nation's weather and climate operations. In 1967, ITSA split into the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) and three labs under the Environmental Research Laboratories (ERL) of ESSA: the Aeronomy Laboratory, the Space Disturbances Laboratory, and the Wave Propagation Laboratory.
In 1970 ESSA was reorganized as part of USDOC's Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1970, becoming the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In 1977 NOAA established line offices and ERL remained in Boulder under NOAA's Office of Research and Development (ORD). The Aeronomy Laboratory (AL) continued and the Wave Propagation Laboratory spun-off additional laboratories and then became the Environmental Technology Laboratory (ETL) under ERL. In the 1980s, the Aeronomy Laboratory and ETL became two research laboratories under NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), also referred to as NOAA Research. ERL continued to oversee the NOAA Research laboratories into the 1990s before it was disestablished. More on the history of NOAA Research.
A new research center was built for NOAA in Boulder, Colorado, and dedicated by Congressman David Skaggs on November 20, 1998.
On October 1, 2005 the NOAA Research laboratories in Boulder reorganized into four divisions of the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL). The Aeronomy Laboratory and ETL became parts of the Chemical Sciences Division (CSD) and the Physical Sciences Division (PSD). Among the transition, the AL Tropical Dynamics and Climate Group moved to the ESRL PSD, and the ETL Optical Remote Sensing Division moved to the ESRL CSD. Following are the NOAA Aeronomy Laboratory and NOAA ETL Optical Remote Sensing Division "at a glance" prior to the Fall of 2005 when they merged to become what is now the NOAA ESRL Chemical Sciences Division.