About PSL

The NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory (PSL) conducts research to advance the prediction of water availability and extremes.

Our vision is a nation that uses science-based environmental intelligence to effectively anticipate and respond to the challenges in water availability and extremes.

Water availability is the quantity of water of sufficient quality to be used for human and environmental purposes.

Overarching Science Goals

  • Develop new knowledge and capabilities to explain and predict observed hydrologic extremes and their impacts to advance NOAA’s mission capabilities.
  • Identify new sources of predictive skill and improve predictions of weather and climate processes influencing water availability and extremes through observations, understanding and modeling of the coupled Earth system.


PSL directly engages NOAA’s long-term, strategic goals by conducting purposeful, end-to-end research strengthening and improving NOAA’s abilities to meet evolving national needs.

Collaboration Across NOAA Research

PSL’s collaboration across NOAA Research and the NOAA Boulder laboratories brings together integrated expertise in weather and climate physical observations, modeling, analysis and applications. At NOAA Boulder alone, this central focus on physical process research:

  • Supports modeling, and computational and display systems development within the Global Systems Laboratory (GSL),
  • Helps explain trends and changes in the environment observed by the Global Monitoring Laboratory (GML), and
  • Furthers 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 Laboratory (CSL).


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 Laboratory of the Earth System Research Laboratories. As part of the transition, the ETL Optical Remote Sensing Division moved to the ESRL Chemical Sciences Laboratory. This merger brought together a combined expertise in:

  • weather and climate dynamics, diagnostic and modeling analyses,
  • physical observations, monitoring and related technology development, and
  • physical process understanding and research, that helped the Earth System Research Laboratories meet critical NOAA objectives in climate and weather research.

In April of 2020, NOAA designated the four divisions of the Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder as full laboratories within the NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research line office to meet recent shifts in mission-essential priorities. The Physical Sciences Laboratory and the three other laboratories at NOAA Boulder (CSL, GML, GSL) retained their core research missions.

The labs continue to collaborate closely with each other and other NOAA Research laboratories to improve understanding and ability to predict changes in Earth’s atmosphere, climate and weather.