Prof. Dr. Martin Visbeck

Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics

Head of the Research Unit: Physical Oceanography

Phone: +49-431 600 4100
Fax: +49-431 600 4102
E-Mail: mvisbeck(at)

GEOMAR Helmholtz-Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
East shore campus
Wischhofstrasse 1-3
Room 3.217
D-24148 Kiel

Personal Information

  • Date of birth: 21 March 1963
  • Place of birth: Braunschweig
  • Nationality: German

Research Interests

  • The role of the ocean in interannual to centennial climate variability
  • Variability of regional ocean circulation
  • Deep water formation in subpolar regions
  • Lateral exchanges by mesoscale eddy processes
  • Sustained global ocean observations
  • The North Atlantic Oscillation and its impacts on the ocean
  • Tropical Atlantic Climate Variability
  • Antarctic Bottom Water formation
  • Ocean circulation configurations during past climates
  • ADCP observations in the open ocean and in coastal environments
  • Dynamics of oxygen minimum zones

Education and Employment


  • 1989-1993    Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography, Institute for Marine Science (IFM), Kiel University, Germany (Advisor: Prof. F. Schott)
  • 1982-1989    Diplom in Physical Oceanography, Kiel University, Germany

Research and Employment History

  • since 2004     Professor at Kiel University and Head of the Research Unit “Physical Oceanography” at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (before 2012 Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences), Germany
  • since 2004     Adjunct Senior Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, USA
  • 1999-2004   Associate Professor, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, USA
  • 1995-2004   Associate Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, USA
  • 1997-1999   Storke-Doherty Lecturer, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, USA
  • 1994-1995   Postdoctoral fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA (Advisor: Prof. J. Marshall)
  • 1989-1993   Research Assistant, Institut für Meereskunde an der Universität Kiel (IfM), Deutschland

Other positions of responsibility

  • 2007-2011   Deputy Director, Leibniz-Institute for Marine Science, Kiel, Germany

External visits

  • 2008-2009   3 months at Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory (NOAA) and Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science (University of Miami), USA
  • 2008            2 months at Ocean University, Qingdao, China
  • 1998-1999   4 months at CSIRO Hobart, Australia


  • 29.10.2019 – 19.11.2019   Chief Scientist, METEOR M159, South Atlantic (Brazil – Cap Verde)
  • 12.12.2016 – 02.01.2017   Chief Scientist, METEOR M133, South Atlantic (Cape Town – Falkland Islands)
  • 01.05.2015 – 03.06.2015   Chief Scientist, METEOR M116/1, Tropical Atlantic (Guadeloupe – Cape Verde)
  • 17.03.2014 – 16.04.2014   Chief Scientist, METEOR M105, Tropical Atlantic (Cape Verde – Cape Verde)
  • 04.10.2013 – 21.10.2013   Chief Scientist, METEOR M100/2, including German-African Training, South Africa (Namibia – Mauritius)
  • 26.11.2012 – 20.12.2012   Chief Scientist, Maria S. Merian MSM23, Tropical Atlantic (Cape Verde – Namibia)
  • 23.09.2011 – 30.09.2011   Chief Scientist, Maria S. Merian MSM19/1a, Training and Capacity Building Cruise in Namibian waters
  • 17.10.2010 – 13.11.2010   Chief Scientist, METEOR M83/1, Tropical Atlantic (Las Palmas – Cape Verde)
  • 26.11.2009 – 22.12.2009   METEOR M80/2, Tropical Atlantic (Cape Verde – Senegal)
  • 01.11.2008 – 06.12.2008   Chief Scientist, Maria S. Merian MSM10/1, Tropical Atlantic (Portugal – Cape Verde)
  • 18.04.2008 – 03.05.2008   Chief Scientist, Maria S. Merian MSM08/1, Tropical Atlantic (Cape Verde – Cape Verde)

Awards and Recognitions

  • 2019    Henry Stommel Research Medal
  • 2015    AGU Fellow 
  • 2015    Member of the European Academy of Sciences (EURASC)
  • 2009    CIMAS Visiting Scientist Award, University of Miami, USA
  • 2008    Guest Professor, Ocean University, Qingdao, China
  • 2003    Tenure at Columbia University
  • 1999    DEES Outstanding Teacher
  • 1997    Storke-Doherty Lectureship sponsored by LDEO/Columbia University
  • 1993    Postdoctoral fellowship sponsored by NOAA-OGP's Global & Climate Change program


International current

  • 2019-2020    President der TOS (The Oceanography Society)
  • 2018-2021    Elected member of the Governing Board of the International Science Council (ISC)
  • since 2015    Editorial Board Member, ESA Journal Ecosystem Health and Sustainability
  • since 2014    Member, Joint Scientific Committee of WCRP (World Climate Research Programme)
  • since 2012     Member, Leadership Council of the SDSN (Sustainable Development Solutions Network)
  • since 2012     Member, ICSU (International Council for Science) Committee on Scientific Planning and Review
  • since 2006      Experte, IOC-UNESCO (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO) working group Advisory Body of Experts on the Law of the Sea

International past

  • 2011 & 2015   Member and Chair, ESA (European Space Agency) EOEP (Earth Observation Envelope Programme) Scientific Review Panel
  • 2011-2013      Member, ICSU Transition Team, the interim governing body of the new global sustainability initiative “Future Earth”
  • 2010-2016      Member, AGU (American Geophysical Union) Ocean Sciences Section Executive Committee
  • 2009-2010      Member, UNESCO- IFSOO (Integrated Framework for Sustained Ocean Observing) transition team
  • 2008-2009      Chair, Expert Segment of the WMO’s (World Meteorological Organization) Third World Climate Conference
  • 2007-2013      Member und Co-Chair, WCRP-CLIVAR (World Climate Research Programme, Climate and Ocean: Variability, Predictability and Change) Scientific Steering Group
  • 2005-2009      Member, GEO (Group on Earth Observations) Science and Technology Committee
  • 2004-2005      Member, WCRP-COPES (World Climate Research Programme, Coordinated Observation and Prediction of the Earth System) Task Force
  • 2000-2006      Chair, WCRP-CLIVAR Atlantic Sector Implementation Panel

National current

  • since 2022      Member of the German Science and Humanities Council (Wissenschaftsrat)
  • since 2017      Mitglied des Programmausschusses Erdbeobachtung in den Beratungsgremien des Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)
  • since 2015      Advisory Board Member, German Meteorological Service (DWD, Germany)
  • since 2014      Advisory Board Member, Met Office Hadley Centre (MOHC, UK)
  • since 2013      Chairman, German Committee Future Earth (DFG, Germany)
  • since 2012      Steering Group Member, RACE project (BMBF, Germany)
  • since 1999      Member, Climate Observing System Council (NOAA-OGP, USA)

National past

  • 2009-2012     Deputy Speaker, German National Committee on Global Change Research (NKGCF, Germany)
  • 2008-2012     Elected member, Review Board for Atmospheric Science and Oceanography (DFG, Germany)
  • 2008-2009     Member, Science and Innovatio Strategic Board (NERC, UK)
  • 2007-2014     Member, Senate Commission on Oceanography (DFG, Germany)
  • 2006-2008     Member, Steering Group "Mittelgroße Forschungsschiffe" working group of the Federal Government and the Federal States "Deutsche Forschungsflotte” (Germany)
  • 2005-2012     Steering Group Member, NORDATLANTIK project (BMBF, Germany)
  • 2005-2010     Steering Group Member, RAPID: Rapid Climate Change Programme (NERC, UK)
  • 2001-2002     Member, Climate Change Data and Detection Advisory Panel (NOAA-OGP, USA)
  • 1998-2004     Member, Global and Climate Change Advisory Panel (NOAA-OGP, USA)
  • 1999-2004     Co-chair, US-CLIVAR Atlantic Sector Implementation Panel



  • 2015-2019    Coordinator, AtlantOS: Optimizing and Enhancing the Integrated Atlantic Ocean Observing System (Horizon-2020, EU)
  • 2012-2018    RACE: Regional Atlantic Circulation and Global Change (BMBF, Germany)
  • 2008-2019    SFB754: Climate-Biogeochemistry Interactions in the Tropical Ocean (DFG Collaborative Research Center, Germany)
  • 2007-2017    Speaker, Kiel Excellence Cluster “The  Future Ocean” (DFG Excellence Initiative, Germany)


  • 2013-2015    Founding member, SPP 1689: Climate Engineering - Risks, Challenges, Opportunities? (DFG, Germany)
  • 2011-2015    Decadal Climate Predictions (MiKlip, Module 3), OCEANOBS: Verification of Ensembles and Initialization Fields for Decadal Climate Predictions via Ocean Observation Systems (BMBF, Germany)
  • 2011-2014    GROOM: Gliders for Research, Ocean Observation and Management (FP7, EU)
  • 2011              MoLaB - a Modular Multidisciplinary Seafloor Observatory (HGF, Germany)
  • 2009-2012     THOR: Thermohaline Overturning - at Risk? (FP7, EU)
  • 2006-2009     GO: Geophysical Oceanography (FP6, EU)
  • 2006-2008     TENATSO: Tropical Eastern North Atlantic Time-Series Observatory (FP6, EU)
  • 2006-2008     SPP1257: Mass Transport and Mass Distribution in the Earth System, under project TRANSOCEAN (DFG, Germany)
  • 2005-2012     NORDATLANTIK - Teil des Erdsystems: Pilot-Anwendungen eines Beobachtungs- und Diagnosesystems zur regionalen Abschätzung der Zirkulation im Nordatlantik und in der Nordsee (BMBF, Germany)
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