The deeper roots of AOML can be traced to the oceanographic investigations of the U.S. Coast Survey beginning in the mid-19th century under the direction of Professor A.D. Bache, great grandson of Benjamin Franklin and a pre-eminent U.S. science figure of the age. In subsequent decades, the urgency of charting coastal waters in support of growing commerce, a task increased by the acquisition of Alaska, Hawaii, and other island territories, came to require all the resources of the Coast Survey.
The modern era can be considered to have begun during the 1960s. In early 1966, an Institute for Oceanography was created, primarily from research groups of the then U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey of the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA, forerunner of NOAA). The following year the Institute was relocated to Miami for a variety of reasons, including the presence already in Miami of meteorological research groups of ESSA dedicated to hurricane research, and air-sea interaction was a hot topic of the time in weather research. (A comprehensive historical review of the National Hurricane Research Project, forerunner of AOML's Hurricane Research Division, can be accessed by clicking here.)
All of these groups were reorganized as the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratories (AOML) and by 1973 took occupancy in the new laboratory constructed on Virginia Key.
Emphasis at AOML continues to be on making and interpreting observations of the ocean and atmosphere from ships, buoys, and research aircraft. The motivation and objectives of our research is continually evolving, however. In the beginning, study of the geology, geophysics, and sedimentation of the sea floor was the largest activity of the Laboratory, but it has diminished to a smaller part of ecosystem research. Research in response to concerns for marine environmental quality and large-scale physics and chemistry of the oceans related to climate variation and global change have supplemented the original themes. Research into the nature and mechanisms of hurricanes has been and is also expected to continue as a major theme in view of the importance of this natural hazard to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States.
New projects include expansion of the use of satellite and locally operated remote sensing techniques to enhance the coverage and detail of observations. Outreach via electronic communication is also rapidly modifying our work and our ability to serve a larger constituency with access to our oceanographic and meteorological observations.