Overview of the Physical Sciences Division

The NOAA/ESRL Physical Sciences Division (PSD) conducts weather and climate research to observe and understand Earth's physical environment, and to improve weather and climate predictions on global-to-local scales.


PSD's mission is to support NOAA and the nation through physical sciences research that advances understanding and predictions of weather, water, and climate, and translates the research findings into actionable information and services.


  • Develop new knowledge and capabilities to explain observed weather and climate extremes, variations, trends, and their impacts to inform risk management and adaptation decisions.
  • Identify new sources of predictive skill and improve predictions of weather, water, and climate through observations, understanding, and modeling of physical processes and phenomena of the coupled Earth system.

Research Goals

  • Rigorously characterize and predict weather, water, and climate extremes and their uncertainties to inform decision-making.
  • Develop new process understanding, observing, and modeling capabilities to predict conditions associated with too much or too little water for early warning, preparedness, resource management, and adaptation.
  • Increase process understanding of the coupled Arctic system and Arctic lower-latitude interactions to improve NOAA weather, climate, and sea ice forecasts.


PSD will carry out research on climate and weather processes, diagnostics, modeling, empirical analyses, focused field observations, and supporting technology development.

Integration of PSD Within ESRL

The integration of PSD with ESRL brings together in the integrated expertise in weather and climate physical observations, modeling, analysis and applications. This central focus on physical process research:
  • will be supported by the observations, modeling, and computational and display systems development within the Global Systems Division,
  • help explain trends and changes in the environment observed by the Global Monitoring Division, and
  • support the understanding, diagnoses, and prediction of air quality on weather time scales to short-term climate scales and develop an improved understanding for the physical consequences of and interrelationships with current and future chemical states of the atmosphere in collaboration with the Chemical Sciences Division.


On October 1, 2005, the Climate Diagnostics Center, the Environmental Technology Laboratory, and the Aeronomy Laboratory's Tropical Dynamics & Climate Division merged into the Physical Sciences Division (PSD) of the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL). As part of the transition, the ETL Optical Remote Sensing Divison moved to the ESRL Chemical Sciences Division. This merger brought together a combined expertise in:
  1. weather and climate dynamics, diagnostic and modeling analyses,
  2. physical observations, monitoring and related technology development, and
  3. physical process understanding and research, that will help ESRL meet critical NOAA objectives in climate and weather research.

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