In Memoriam: Bob Molinari

Dr. Molinari and his wife Pat, at the ICPO in Southampton in 2010; with Jacky Wood, former Head of the National Marine Coordination Office (left), Kate Stansfield, former ICPO Staff Scientist (bottom centre); and Sandy Grapes, former ICPO Personal Assistant (right).

We are very sad to announce that Bob Molinari, former Director of the International CLIVAR Project Office, peacefully passed away surrounded by family on July 30, 2022.

Dr. Robert ‘Bob’ Molinari was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He attended the City College of New York (CCNY) and received a Bachelor of Science in 1965. His major was meteorology, as CCNY did not offer a major in oceanography (his preference) at the time. He then moved on to Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas (where Brooklyn’s dialect is a foreign language) and received a Master’s of Science degree in 1968 and Doctor of Philosophy in 1970, both in physical oceanography. He used to say that he was very fortunate to have the late Professor Bob Reid as his PhD advisor.

Bob and his wife of several years, Pat, then moved on to Miami where he had obtained a National Research Council Postdoctoral position at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This was a one-year extended to two-year position. However, the co-workers, work, beach, ocean and sun led him to apply for a NOAA appointment as a research oceanographer, which he received in 1972. He remained at AOML until December, 2006 with a one-year (1981-1982) leave of absence spent in Paris working on tropical Atlantic data with French partners. During the 34-year period at AOML Bob performed both management and research activities. He served as a Supervisory Oceanographer, Director of AOML’s Physical Oceanography Division and AOML’s Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) Center. However, his main interest was observational oceanography. He served as Chief Scientist on more than 35 cruises to the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. His main research interests in his early years at AOML were using the data collected during these cruises to study the subtropical western boundary and tropical currents of the three basins (perhaps he preferred these latitudes because of his susceptibility to seasickness). After starting the GOOS Center at AOML, his work on sustained ocean observations increased. The GOOS Center managed NOAA’s contributions to the global surface drifter program, the Argo program and the expendable bathythermograph ship of opportunity program. Center activities included data collection and management.

Throughout his career he served on the national and international research (e.g., WOCE) and sustained observation (e.g., GOOS) committees that provided the coordination for major programs. Bob was on the first CLIVAR Scientific Working Group (1993-1995), which established the original foundation for CLIVAR. Bob retired from NOAA in December 2006 and took a research position at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science joint institute with NOAA, the Cooperative Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS). Throughout his career in NOAA and CIMAS Bob was written over 75 articles that have appeared in referred journals and books and numerous grey literature publications.

Bob accepted the position of Director of the International CLIVAR Project Office (ICPO) in September 2010, and he remained in the post until March 2013. At that time Bob expressed: “With respect to CLIVAR, we used to say in the 1960’s (giving my age away now): ‘the times they are a changing’. The ICPO, and WCRP, are in the midst of some dramatic transitions, this position has been a CHANGE for me. I am truly amazed with all CLIVAR is doing”.  

Bob indeed joined CLIVAR at a time when exciting changes were occurring, and even with a short period at the ICPO, he left a profound mark in the project. He will be sorely missed.