Rick Lumpkin

Rick Lumpkin Headshot. Photo Credit: AOML, NOAA.

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.

Rick Lumpkin, PhD.

Director, Physical Oceanography Division


4301 Rickenbacker Causeway
Miami, Florida 33149

“The world’s oceans shape weather patterns and are the memory of the climate system at time scales from subseasonal to millennial. They absorb vast amounts of heat, carbon dioxide, and other properties from the atmosphere, store them throughout the water column, transport them via a network of interconnected surface and subsurface currents, and ultimately return them to the atmosphere or sequester them in sediments.”

Dr. Rick Lumpkin is the Director of the Physical Oceanography Division of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML). Dr. Lumpkin’s research focuses on upper ocean processes and ocean circulation. He received his Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Hawaii in 1998 and conducted a postdoctorate at the French institute IFREMER in 1998—2000. Lumpkin then worked as an assistant in research at Florida State University, where in collaboration with Kevin Speer he developed an inverse model of the global meridional overtuning (“conveyor belt”) circulation from hydrographic data, current meter moorings and air-sea heat and freshwater flux estimates. In 2004, Lumpkin became a federal employee at AOML in Miami, Florida. In 2015, he was promoted to deputy director of AOML’s Physical Oceanography Division, and become acting director of the division in 2021. Lumpkin serves as lead of the US delegation to the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel (DBCP). In 2020, Lumpkin joined the WMO’s Standing Committee for Measurements, Instrumentation, and Traceability. As a Principal Investigator of NOAA’s Global Drifter Program (GDP), he oversees a global array of ~1300 satellite-tracked drifting buoys measuring ocean temperatures, surface currents, barometric pressure, and waves, and has used these data to write a number of peer-reviewed publications. Lumpkin has served as chief scientist on a number of oceanographic research cruises. He also helped design ocean currents displays in the Sant Ocean Hall of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Current Work

Director, Physical Oceanography Division

Download Full CV

1998 Ph.D. Oceanography, Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa

1995 M.S. Oceanography, Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa

1991 B.S. Physics (Mathematics minor), North Carolina State Univ.

  1. Beron-Vera, F.J., M.J. Olascoaga, N.F. Putman, J. Trinanes, G.J. Goni, and R. Lumpkin. Dynamical geography and transition paths of Sargassum in the tropical Atlantic. AIP Advances, 12(10):105107, https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0117623 2022
    Ref. 4172
  2. Elipot, S., A. Sykulski, R. Lumpkin, L. Centurioni, and M. Pazos. A dataset of hourly sea surface temperature from drifting buoys. Scientific Reports, 9:567, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41597-022-01670-2 2022
    Ref. 4151
  3. Johnson, G.C., and R. Lumpkin. Overview. In State of the Climate in 2021, J. Blunden and T. Boyer (eds.). Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 103(8):S149, https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0072.1 2022
    Ref. 4140

NOAA/OAR Employee of the Year 2013

For efforts to improve the quality of drifter data by developing a new methodology that evaluates when drifters have lost their drogues.

Three NOAA Bronze Medals 2009

For (1) developing the research-to- operation transition of Climate Sea Surface Temperature Observing System monitoring, (2) exceptional service as author of the NOAA/Smithsonian publication “Hidden Depths: Atlas of the Ocean”, and (3) remarkable contributions and original concepts in the design and leverage of the Smithsonian’s Sant Ocean Hall.

Recipient of Ministère des Affaires Etrangères fellowship from French
government, 1998—1999