A message from the Director

Dr Wenju Cai (Image source: Alex Drewniak)

The Centre has begun to address some of the key challenges in climate science, such as El Niño-Southern Oscillation complexity, interactions between the three tropical oceans, and the role of Southern Ocean heat sequestration in the fate of the Antarctic sea ice, Antarctic land ice, and global sea level in a warming climate. The second year of operations at the Centre continue to demonstrate the importance of strategic partnerships in delivering outstanding new science.

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. The Centre produced 28 publications in 2018-19, including three in Nature and one in Science. The cutting-edge science CSHOR undertakes is attested by a large increase in investment through significant programs within and outside Australia, led by our CSHOR scientists.

In a Nature article, Cai et al. (2018) show for the first time strong inter-model consensus over sea surface temperature variability of a type of El Niño, eastern Pacific El Niño, that is strong in both strength and impact, despite differences in the details of the simulated El Niño across models. This paper was highlighted in a Nature ‘News and Views’ article and reported in the Los Angeles Times, Fairfax media and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

In a Science article, Cai et al. (2019) review what we know about pantropical interactions, discuss possible ways of improving predictions of current climate variability, and consider how projecting future climate under different anthropogenic forcing scenarios may be improved. They argue that making progress in this field will require sustained global climate observations, climate model improvements, and theoretical advances.

Early in 2018, the first array of Deep Argo floats was established near Antarctica, in partnership with the United States, France and Japan. The floats are delivering measurements of full-depth ocean properties with unprecedented spatial and temporal detail. We deployed the first Australian Deep Argo floats in January 2019, from a Japanese vessel. This brings the total number of active floats to 12, each profiling every 10-14 days.

CSHOR collaborated with scientists from China’s First Institute of Oceanography (FIO) to carry out a six-day chartered voyage in the southeast Indian Ocean warm pool, deploying one meteorology and ocean profiling buoy (MOPB) from the FIO and eight fast profiling floats from CSIRO.

CSHOR and the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) will lead Australian involvement in an exciting new international collaborative study of the Indonesian Throughflow (Measuring and Modelling the INdonesian Throughflow International Experiment (MINTIE)). International partners include Australia, the United States, China, and Indonesia.

CSHOR’s 2018-19 Annual Report is available at this link.

I look forward to the third 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, CSHOR Director

September 2019