A message from the Director

Dr Wenju Cai (Image source: Alex Drewniak)

The third year of CSHOR operation has come to a close. The significant research reported by our six projects confirms that we are on our way to discovering more about the southern hemisphere oceans from the tropics to the Antarctic. In 2019-20, the Centre produced eight high profile research articles published by the Nature group (six) and Science Advances (two). In total, there were 45 publications.

We have explored the changing impact of El Niño and its predictability in the context of pantropical interaction, and the changing decadal predictability, under greenhouse warming. We have examined the role of tidal mixing in controlling the structure of the Indonesian throughflow, the impact of eddy-induced heat transport to the Antarctic shelf on variability and the fate of the ice shelf, and the relative importance of warming, freshening, and changing winds in global sea-level rise and the associated regional fingerprints. Importantly, we have identified a link between tropical variability and Antarctic circulation, revealing for the first time that the increased variability in the tropical Pacific, as manifested in the extreme El Niño of 2015-16, may have conspired with the persistent positive state of the Southern Annular Mode to reverse a multi-decadal freshening and cooling trend of the Antarctic Deep Water.

Notwithstanding the extraordinary circumstance surrounding COVID-19, our international leadership and collaboration flourished. We contributed to the OceanObs19 conference, a once-a-decade event that charts innovative solutions to society’s growing needs for ocean information in the coming decade. We were successful in a multi-investor and multi-institutional partnership proposal for ‘Measuring and Modelling the Indonesian Throughflow International Experiment’. We participated in a China – Australia joint field campaign in the Indo-Pacific warm pool and RV Investigator Years of the Maritime Continent (YMC) voyage to study high-resolution air-sea interactions. The scientific stimuli and outcomes of these engagements will contribute to our further success in the upcoming years.

CSHOR’s 2019-20 Annual Report is available on the internal reports page.

I look forward to the fourth year of CSHOR and to learning more about our Earth’s complex climate system as our projects begin to reveal:

  • how the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) occur and interact and how they vary on decadal timescales;
  • the multifaceted behaviour of the Indonesian Throughflow and its impact on the interaction between the Pacific and Indian Oceans and their modes of variability (ENSO and IOD);
  • if air-sea coupling in the Indian Ocean warm pool holds the key for improved sub-seasonal and inter-annual climate predictions in the Indo-Pacific;
  • what role the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic ice sheet play in sea-level change;
  • the underlying mechanisms driving change in oceanic temperatures around Antarctica and the associated changes in Southern Ocean carbon uptake; and
  • the sensitivity of circulation and water mass formation to changes in forcing of the Southern Ocean.

Kind regards,



Dr Wenju Cai FAA, CSHOR Director

September 2020