Dr Stephen Rintoul has contributed in an outstanding way to the success of Australia’s Antarctic science program, and thus to global understanding about the workings of the Southern Ocean and its significance in the global climate system. For this he was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Science in 2006 and appointed a CSIRO Fellow in 2007 — CSIRO’s highest accolade for science excellence. The receipt of an Australian Antarctic Medal is made on the basis of his outstanding contribution to science, leadership in his discipline and as an exceptional contributor to Australia’s Antarctic program.

His major involvement has been to develop a new concept of the dynamics of the Southern Ocean in which three-dimensional ocean circulation such as eddy fluxes, wind forcing and topographic interactions are intimately linked. Dr Rintoul’s work has shown that deep Antarctic water is becoming fresher and warmer at a much higher rate than previously thought — an observation of crucial importance for future climate predictions.

He was the inaugural winner of the Georg Wüst Medal by the German Society of Marine Research (2005). He is co-Chair of the new Southern Ocean Observing System, on behalf of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Dr Rintoul is a program leader in the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC, and has been since it started in 2010. His work figures prominently in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, and will do so again in 2013.

Dr Rintoul’s contribution to global understanding of Southern Ocean dynamics is of world significance, as his international standing and discipline recognition attest.