The current (2004) president of the American Geophysical Union, since 2000, Dr. Dickinson is a Professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, a position he has held since 1999. Previously, Dr. Dickinson was Regents Professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he held joint appointments in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, and the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. He received his B.A. degree in 1961 from Harvard, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1962 and 1966, respectively. In 1968 Dr. Dickinson joined the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., becoming head of NCAR’s Climate Section in 1975. He served as deputy director of NCAR’s Climate and Global Dynamics Division from 1981 to 1990, when he joined the University of Arizona.
Dr. Dickinson formulated path-breaking computer models that simulated the basic workings of the Earth's atmosphere, from the troposphere to the thermosphere, and showed how atmospheric dynamics affect the Earth's climate. To provide a more complete picture of the Earth’s complex climate system, in the 1980's he began to create models that took into account the atmosphere's significant interactions with the surface of the Earth—in particular the role of plants, trees and human activity in the continual exchange of energy, moisture and chemicals within our climate system.
Prior to ascending to the presidency of the American Geophysical Union, Dr. Dickinson was a fellow with the organization. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the National Academy of Engineering, and an honorary member of the European Geophysical Society and the European Geosciences Union. He has also been a member of numerous scientific advisory organizations, including the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth, the National Research Council's Climate Research Committee, and the International Commission on Climate.
In its citation, the Vetlesen jury proclaimed, "Dr. Dickinson has made a host of contributions to the in-depth understanding of atmospheric sciences and climate, including fundamental advances in atmospheric dynamics, radiative transfer, climate modeling and climate-biosphere interactions."