Allan R. Robinson, Ph.D., is the Gordon McKay Professor of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University, where he has served as the Director of the Center for Earth and Planetary Sciences and the Chairman of the Committee on Oceanography. He holds a B.A. (mcl), M.A., and Ph.D., all in physics from Harvard University, Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Liege, and the Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa from the University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth. Professor Robinson is currently the Distinguished Senior Fellow of the School for Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts (Dartmouth), and has held numerous visiting professorships, including the Slichter Professorship (UCLA), the COMNAVOCEANCOM Professorship (Naval Postgraduate School), and the Franqui Professorship (University of Liege). He has been Visiting Scientist or Professor at the NATO SACLANT Undersea Research Centre, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Cambridge University, Imperial College (London), and the Indian Institute of Sciences (Bangalore). Many of his nearly 30 Ph.D. students and 25 postdoctoral fellows have gone on to leadership positions in the ocean scientific community. He was awarded the ONR Distinguished Educator's Award in Ocean Science in 1991. Professor Robinson's research interests and contributions have encompassed dynamics of rotating and stratified fluids, boundary-layer flows, thermocline dynamics, the dynamics and modeling of ocean currents, and the influence of physical processes on biological dynamics in the ocean. He is recognized as one of the pioneer and leading experts in modern ocean prediction, and has contributed significantly to the techniques for the assimilation of data into ocean forecasting models. Professor Robinson has served on numerous national and international advisory committees, including the Ocean Sciences and Naval Studies Boards of the National Research Council. He chairs and has chaired many programs and working groups for international cooperative science, including those associated with ocean mesoscale dynamics, ocean prediction, the Mediterranean Sea, global ecosystem dynamics, and the global coastal ocean. He has authored and edited more than a hundred and fifty research articles and books, and is currently editor-in-chief of the prestigious series of treatises, THE SEA, and the journal, Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans. Professor Robinson is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Geophysical Union. In February, 1998, a symposium was held for four days at the AGU-ASLO Ocean Sciences meeting, entitled Theory and Modeling of Ocean Circulation, Data Assimilation, and Interdisciplinary Applications: A Tribute to Allan R. Robinson. In 2000, he was a recipient of The Award for the Merits of Two Worlds from the European Institute of Cultural Integration "Robert Schuman".
The complex and varied nonlinear and often turbulent flows studied by oceanic physicists dictate the character of biogeochemical cycles, ecosystem dynamics, and--in conjunction and interaction with the atmosphere--climate and global change. Serious efforts to understand or influence the environment on a planetary scale must consider the vast quantities of heat and energy that ocean currents and eddies transport. The life and resources of the ocean are drastically affected by their transport of nutrients, chemicals, and particulate matter.
The physics and acoustics of the sea interact symbiotically. Sound waves propagate freely in the electromagnetically opaque ocean. Temperature fronts associated with currents and eddies profoundly influence the transmission of sound in the sea, and such effects are influencing contemporary research in ocean physics, acoustics, and global climate.
Advances continue to be made in our ability to describe, model, and predict the evolution of the flow structures and physical variabilities that occur in the sea. As a result, progress on fundamental interdisciplinary dynamical oceanic problems, identified several decades ago, is just now feasible. Nonlinear physical-biological-chemical interactions can be treated realistically.
Professor Robinson and his colleagues have contributed significantly both to understanding the dynamics of ocean flows and to the methodology of ocean prediction. To make predictions, they carry out detailed, realistic simulations for regions of the ocean, and then embed them in larger scale simulations. The group is now investigating the coupling between the deep sea and the coastal ocean and exchanges across the steep shelf-break. In this work, the field estimation through data assimilation--the melding of data and dynamics--plays a pivotal role.
Current activities include: theoretical research on physical and interdisciplinary simulations, designing and conducting experiments at sea; real-time predictions on shipboard; and closely connected applied research relating to efficient management of multiuse coastal zones, fisheries science, and naval and maritime operations.