Portrait image of Dr Steve Rintoul.

Dr Rintoul's research has highlighted the importance of the Southern Ocean in the climate system.

Dr Steve Rintoul: researching the Southern Ocean and how it affects global climate systems

Dr Steve Rintoul is internationally recognised as a leading authority on the circulation of the Southern Ocean and how it affects global climate systems.

  • 19 November 2009 | Updated 12 February 2014

Current activities

Dr Rintoul is based at CSIRO's research site in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research was formed on 1 July 2005 by the merging of CSIRO Marine Research and CSIRO Atmospheric Research. Staff are located at sites in five states, with headquarters in Hobart.

Dr Rintoul is a physical oceanographer studying the role of the ocean in the Earth’s climate system, with a particular interest in the Southern Ocean.

His current interests include:

  • ocean currents and how they affect Earth's climate
  • the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current
  • how ocean currents influence sea ice, biogeochemical cycles, and the distribution of biological productivity.

Background

Born and educated in the USA, Dr Rintoul joined the CSIRO Division of Oceanography in Hobart in 1990, where he has been based ever since.

The Hobart location provided him with a ready stepping off point to explore the Southern Ocean, home to the world's largest ocean current - the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

He has participated in 14 research voyages, 11 as Chief Scientist, on major expeditions to the Southern, Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Dr Rintoul's research has laid the foundation for the growing recognition of the importance of the Southern Ocean in the climate system. For example, he has shown that the Southern Ocean plays a critical role in the global overturning circulation that controls climate.

Dr Rintoul graduated with Honours in Physics from Harvard College, USA, and obtained his Doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program, USA.

He has made pioneering contributions to understanding the dynamics, structure and variability of the world’s largest ocean current, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

His scientific interests are broad, including the interactions between physical, biological and biogeochemical processes in the sea.

Dr Rintoul's commitment to science leadership is evident in his roles as:

  • Co-chair, International Climate of Antarctic and Southern Ocean (CASO) research program
  • Co-chair, Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Expert Group on Oceanography
  • a participant of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Southern Ocean Implementation Panel
  • Acting Chief of CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, May-Nov 2009
  • Science Steering Group of the Climate Variability and Predictability Program
  • Co-Leader, Bluewater and Climate Node of Australia's Integrated Marine Observing System
  • Leader, Oceans Program, Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC.

He has contributed to the design of a multi-national Southern Ocean Observing System currently being discussed in the science community.

Academic qualifications

Dr Rintoul graduated with Honours in Physics from Harvard College, USA, and obtained his Doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program, USA.

Achievements

Dr Rintoul has published more than 120 papers in refereed journals and books, with more than 4000 citations.

He has served on the editorial board of Ocean Dynamics and the Journal of Marine Research.

Dr Rintoul has received several national and international honours including:

  • the inaugural Georg Wüst Medal by the German Society of Marine Research (2005)
  • election as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (2006)
  • appointment as a CSIRO Fellow, CSIRO's highest recognition for scientific achievement (2007)
  • the Jardetzky Medal & Lecture from Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, USA (2010)
  • the US$100,000 Martha T Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica (2012)
  • the Australian Antarctic Medal (2012)
  • the Oceanography Award of the Society for Underwater Technology, UK (2013).

Dr Rintoul served as a Coordinating Lead Author on the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Find out more about CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.