AOML Oceanographer Rik Wanninkhof Selected as Senior Technical Scientist

NOAA selected AOML oceanographer Dr. Rik Wanninkhof in October 2015 to become a Senior Technical Scientist, the highest attainable level for federal research scientists within NOAA. Rik is an internationally recognized authority on air-sea gas transfer with close to 25 years of experience studying the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the ocean. Senior Technical Scientist positions are held by individuals who achieve national and/or international distinction in their field through their high-level research.

Rik began his career at AOML in 1991 as an oceanographer with the Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division. Since then he has conducted research on the inorganic carbon cycle, focusing on the uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide by the oceans and the effects of increasing carbon dioxide levels on ocean biogeochemical cycles and ecology. Much of this research involves decadal sampling of hydrographic sections throughout the global ocean to quantify changes in the storage and transport of carbon dioxide, nutrients, fresh water, and heat. He currently leads AOML’s Ocean Carbon Group, which researches the transport and transformation of carbon in the ocean.

Patterns of air-sea carbon dioxide exchange are the focus of AOML’s Ocean Carbon Group, led by Dr. Wanninkhoff.

As a principal investigator, Rik’s work stimulated the development of entirely new field techniques for quantifying air-sea gas transfer velocity, as well as multi-investigator, international field experiments to test and apply these methods in different oceanic environments. He co-led the development of the global surface ocean observing system for the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) within NOAA, and his Ocean Carbon Group is one of the most important contributors to the global pCO2 databases.

During his years at AOML, Rik has been the recipient of a number of accolades and honors including the John Martin Award from the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, Gold and Silver Medals from the Department of Commerce, a NOAA Administrator’s Award, and several outstanding scientific paper awards from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. In recognition of his exceptional scientific contributions, he was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2009.

“I am very proud of Rik,” said Dr. Robert Atlas, AOML director. “His appointment to an ST position is very well deserved.”

Rik holds a PhD from Columbia University, awarded in 1986, and has published more than 200 papers related to the oceanic carbon cycle and air-sea gas exchange.

The Senior Technical Science position recognizes Rik’s exceptional understanding of atmospheric and oceanic science; expertise in biogeochemistry, physics, and their linkages; translation of scientific information into decision-support applications; and development of ideas for innovative and transformational science in support of NOAA’s mission. These capabilities allow Rik to effectively communicate NOAA’s scientific excellence to the outside world.