Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory

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Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory
Agency overview
Headquarters Virginia Key, Miami, Florida
Agency executives
  • Dr. John Cortinas, Director
  • Dr. Molly Baringer, Deputy Director
Parent agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), a federal research laboratory, is part of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), located in Miami, Florida. AOML's research spans tropical cyclone and hurricanes, coastal ecosystems, oceans and human health, climate studies, global carbon systems, and ocean observations. It is one of seven NOAA Research Laboratories (RLs). [1]


AOML’s organizational structure consists of an Office of the Director and three scientific research divisions. The Office of the Director oversees the Laboratory’s scientific programs, as well as its financial, administrative, computer, outreach/education, and facility management services. Research programs are augmented by the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS), a joint enterprise with the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. CIMAS enables AOML and university scientists to collaborate on research areas of mutual interest and facilitates the participation of students and visiting scientists.

The Laboratory is a member of a unique community of marine research and educational institutions located on Virginia Key in Miami, Florida. Approximately $150M per year is invested in marine science and education among the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, NOAA's Southeast Fisheries Science Center, the Miami Seaquarium, the Maritime and Science Technology Academy (MAST Academy).


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 Alexander Dallas Bache, great grandson of Benjamin Franklin and a preeminent 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.

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 enabling AOML to serve a larger constituency with access to oceanographic and meteorological observations.


AOML conducts mission oriented scientific research that seeks to understand the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics and processes of the ocean and atmosphere, both separately and as a coupled system. The Laboratory’s research themes (oceans and climate, coastal ecosystems, and hurricanes and tropical meteorology) employ a cross-disciplinary approach, conducted through collaborative interactions with national and international research and environmental forecasting institutions. More information about AOML's research can be found at

AOML carries out interdisciplinary scientific investigations of the physics of ocean currents and water properties, and on the role of the ocean in climate, extreme weather events, and ecosystems. The tools used to carry out these studies range from sensors on deep ocean moorings to satellite-based instruments to measurements made on research and commercial shipping vessels and autonomous vehicles, and include data analysis and numerical modeling as well as theoretical approaches (

AOML manages, leads, or participate in the design, implementation, maintenance, and enhancement of several key components of the global ocean observing system and, with these and other data, conducts research in several areas including:

Coastal ecosystems

Coastal and regional ecosystem research has been a focus of AOML activities for more than two decades. Current interdisciplinary field efforts include physical, biological, and chemical studies supporting the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration (SFER) effort and the underlying health of this ecosystem to the regional Intra-Americas Sea program, as well as the status and health of coral reef ecosystems worldwide.

Coastal Ecosystem related research projects:

Hurricanes and tropical meteorology

Tropical meteorology research at AOML is focused on advancing the understanding and prediction of hurricanes and other tropical weather. Scientists conduct their research utilizing a combination of models, theories, and observations, with particular emphasis on data obtained with research aircraft in the inner core of tropical cyclones and their surrounding environment.

Hurricanes and tropical meteorology related research projects:

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  1. "NOAA Research Laboratories". NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. Retrieved 2014-04-26.