John Cortinas

John Cortinas, Ph.D. Director of the Atlanic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory

Research Highlights

Research Interests

Ocean transport and mixing, from sub mesoscale to global scale

Hourly to decadal-scale ocean temperature circulation changes, often using a synthesis of in-situ and remote observations 

Pathways and mechanisms of the global overturning circulation

John Cortinas, Ph.D.

Director, NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory 


4301 Rickenbacker Causeway
Miami, Florida 33149

A member of the federal government’s senior executive service, Dr. Cortinas has served nine years as director of OWAQ, NOAA Research’s program to improve NOAA National Weather Service products and services for high-impact weather events. In this office, he also oversaw NOAA’s U.S. Weather Research Program (USWRP), the Joint Technology Transfer Initiative (JTTI), and hosted the National Earth System Prediction Capability project office. Cortinas has extensive experience transitioning research to operations, particularly through USWRP and JTTI.

Prior to joining OWAQ in 2010, Cortinas directed NOAA Research’s Cooperative Institute program, overseeing the administration of a program that supported more than 1000 scientists and students at United States universities working with NOAA.  In this position, he oversaw administration, grant management, and science policy development for cooperative institutes across the United States and led the development of NOAA’s first Administrative Order governing CIs and its accompanying handbook.

From 1992-2003, Cortinas was a research scientist at NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at the University of Oklahoma, working with scientists at NOAA Research’s National Severe Storms Laboratory to improve winter weather products and services at NOAA’s National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.  In 2000, he became the first CIMMS assistant director of NOAA Relations, overseeing NOAA-supported activities at CIMMS.

Throughout his career, Cortinas has been a passionate advocate for underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  He is a member of several scientific organizations that work to improve diversity within STEM, such as the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, Latinos@NOAA, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Meteorological Society (AMS), for which he is currently an elected representative of the AMS Council.

Cortinas grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and is the oldest of five children. He received a B.S. in Meteorology from Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado, and a doctorate in Geophysical Sciences from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Cortinas has authored and co-authored many scientific articles, including a chapter on operational meteorology in the Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences, Academic Press, Vol. 4, and served on numerous American and international scientific working groups and committees.

Director, NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory

2008, Key Executive Leadership Program Certificate, American University, Washington, D.C.

1992, Ph.D., Geophysical Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA

1987, B.S., Meteorology, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Denver, CO

1982-1984, Geography, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE

2022 Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service

For exceptional leadership throughout more than 15 years of federal service that has led to significant improvements in NOAA’s ability to provide accurate and timely forecasts and warnings for many types of extreme weather, as well as being an exemplary role model for NOAA’s workforce and others from underrepresented communities by working tirelessly to advance diversity and inclusion across NOAA.

2019 NOAA Administrator’s Award

For exemplary leadership in implementing the WOMEN of NOAA campaign.

2013 U.S. Department of Commerce Bronze Medal

2006 Spectrum Science Magazine Trailblazer Award

2005 NOAA Special Act Award

2002 Hispanic Engineer Magazine Power Hitters

1999 NOAA/OAR Scientific Paper of the Year