Earth science, or geoscience, is an all encompassing term used for the sciences that relate to the Earth's processes; atmospheric, geological, geophysical, glacial, and oceanic. The atmosphere is one component of many that make up Earth's intricate system. Atmospheric science is a broad discipline, within which there are several more specific areas of study (ie - climate, ocean/air interactions, atmospheric chemistry, societal impacts).

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is charged with, among other things, providing the atmospheric science community with expertise, oversight and observing systems to carry out research projects on the field.

EOL supports the observing needs of research programs in the following areas of study:

Field projects are designed to develop a more complete understanding of the complex interactions between the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land, ice masses, and biosphere. The impact of human activities on the Earth’s physical, chemical, and biological processes is a major focus of our national center. The Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL) is tasked primarily with developing technologically advanced instrumentation and data acquisition systems, and overseeing scientific field campaigns that enable the collection of data for innovative scientific research. EOL field projects contribute directly to NCAR’s goal of improving society's understanding of the atmosphere and Earth's systems, specifically by investigating atmospheric processes and examining interactions between the atmosphere and other environmental components.

Many of the projects can be included in multiple categories, due to the nature of the project. For example, the main goal of a study may be to examine severe weather, which is likely a subset of a natural atmospheric cycle or climate process, and could be exacerbated by air pollution.