Sustained Antarctic Research

September 2019

A new paper published in One Earth presents a roadmap of future research imperatives in Antarctic and the Southern Ocean (Kennicutt et al., 2019). The volume of the journal was timed to coincide with the Climate Action Summit in New York. The paper provides a comprehensive summary of progress made on 80 high priority science questions identified in a “horizon scan” carried out in 2014 and outlines priorities for the future.

Building an international transparent ocean community (OceanObs’19 special session)

September 2019

QNLM and CSIRO hosted a special session at OceanObs’19, Hawaii in September 2019. The session focused on building an international transparent ocean community by encouraging nations to share data, develop innovative observing technologies, and build a cost-effective global observing system. A brief report is available here.

Figure: The precursor of Atlantic Niño/Niña to recent extreme ENSO events and projected changes in the Atlantic-Pacific teleconnection. A, 1988 Atlantic Niño. B, 1988/89 extreme La Niña. C, 1997 Atlantic Niña. D, 1997/98 extreme El Niño. E, Projected decrease in the Atlantic Niño-Pacific teleconnection.

Weakening Atlantic Niño–Pacific connection under greenhouse warming

August 2019

As greenhouse warming continues, Pacific ENSO is projected to be less affected by the Atlantic Niño/Niña and more challenging to predict. A paper, co-authored by CSHOR researchers, recently published online in Science Advances, shows that greenhouse warming leads to a weakened influence from the Atlantic Niño/Niña on the Pacific ENSO. In response to anomalous equatorial Atlantic heating, ascending over the equatorial Atlantic is weaker due to an increased tropospheric stability in the mean climate, resulting in a weaker impact on the Pacific Ocean. Read the full article by Fan Jia, Wenju Cai and Lixin Wu et al. at this link. Wenju Cai comments on these findings in a ScienceNews article by Maria Temming.

Measuring and Modelling the INdonesian Throughflow International Experiment (MINTIE): an International Collaborative Study

July 2019

CSHOR’s Indo-Pacific Inter-basin exchange project and the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) will lead Australian involvement in an exciting new international collaborative study of the Indonesian Throughflow. Read more about the study at this link.

Argo floats ready for deployment.

What we learnt from spending winter under Antarctic sea ice

Read the CSIRO Blog reporting on a new mission for our fleet of Argo floats at this link.

CSHOR’s Veronica Tamsitt joins the CAPSTAN voyage aboard the RV Investigator

May 2019

One of CSHOR’s postdoctoral fellows, Veronica Tamsitt, sailed from Hobart to Fremantle as a trainer on an exciting 10-day educational voyage aboard the RV Investigator. Veronica joined 6 other researchers from a diverse group whose expertise span plankton biology to sediments and geophysics, to train a group of 20 honours, masters and PhD students at sea. Read more about the voyage at this link.

2nd Deep Argo Workshop, CSIRO Hobart, May 2019

2nd Deep Argo Workshop

CSHOR and CSIRO hosted the 2nd Deep Argo Workshop at CSIRO Marine Laboratories Hobart from 13 to 15 May 2019. Over 30 international and national scientists attended the workshop. A public seminar on the morning of day 1 was also well attended by Hobart-based ocean scientists.

Workshop outcomes include a plan to tackle several technical challenges experienced in deep Argo research, the co-ordination of national plans and improved communication between manufactures, scientists and funding agencies.

CSHOR Science Seminar

CSIRO and the CSHOR office hosted the CSHOR Science Seminar on Thursday 16 May. Our guest presenter, Dr Ian Allison, delivered a talk titled, ‘From Indulgence to Global Relevance: a fifty-year journey towards understanding the role of Antarctica in the climate system’. It was a fascinating personal recollection, based on Dr Allison’s own experiences over 50 years, of how Antarctic research has transitioned from a subject of exploration and basic curiosity to one of critical significance for understanding Earth’s climate system, its future changes and their global impacts. Dr Allison’s presentation and all of the project presentations can be found at this link.

Building an International Transparent Ocean Community

Building an International Transparent Ocean Community Workshop Group, QNLM, Qingdao, China, 15-17 April 2019

Wenju Cai, CSHOR Director, and Guojian Wang, CSHOR Project Leader, attended the Building an International Transparent Ocean Community Workshop in Qingdao from 15 to 17 April 2019. The Workshop was organized by the Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (QNLM). The aim was to foster an atmosphere of strategic and critical thinking, reflection and productivity. QNLM hoped to identify areas of common interest where China could play a significant role: such as observing system design, artificial intelligence and ocean information. It is hoped that an action plan with detailed timeline and milestones will result from the Workshop.

The meeting was attended by experts from China, Germany, United States of America, Australia, Canada, France, Indonesia, and Ireland.

‘Monster’ El Nino a chance later this year, pointing to extended dry times – The Age newspaper article 16 March 2019

CSHOR scientists, Wenju Cai and Agus Santoso, are quoted in The Age newspaper in an article highlighting the increased probability of a large El Niño by the end of this year. The article by Peter Hannam discusses the findings from an international climate science conference held earlier this month in Chile.  The prospect is developing on the back of recent findings by CSHOR team for possible increase in extreme El Niño occurrences under greenhouse warming. Read the full article by Cai et al. at the following link.


Figure: Pantropical feedbacks affecting ENSO. The black loop represents internal Pacific fast positive feedbacks (short arrows) and delayed negative feedbacks (long arrows). Interbasin feedbacks include Pacific feedbacks onto the Atlantic and Indian Oceans (blue arrows), delayed negative feedbacks of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans onto the Pacific (orange and green arrows, respectively), and positive feedbacks of the Atlantic onto the Indian Ocean (yellow arrow). The effects of atmospheric noise forcing in the Pacific are indicated by the gray dotted line (Cai et al. 2019). NB: SST = Sea surface temperature

Pantropical climate interactions

March 2019

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which originates in the Pacific, is the strongest and most well-known mode of tropical climate variability. Its reach is global, it can force climate variations of the tropical Atlantic and Indian Oceans by disturbing the global atmospheric circulation. Less appreciated is how the tropical Atlantic and Indian Oceans affect the Pacific. Especially noteworthy is the multidecadal Atlantic warming that began in the late 1990s, because recent research suggests that it has influenced Indo-Pacific climate, the character of the ENSO cycle, and the hiatus in global surface warming. Discovery of these pantropical interactions provides a pathway forward for improving predictions of climate variability in the current climate and for refining projections of future climate under different anthropogenic forcing scenarios. In a Science paper published recently Cai et al. review what we know about these 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.

Find out more about CSHOR ENSO and the IOD research on the project page.

Prof Jonathan Gregory visits CSHOR Hobart

From left to right, Dr Xuebin Zhang, Prof Jonathan Gregory, Prof John Church, Dr Kewei Lyu and Ms Jingping Wang. CSHOR office February 2019

Prof Jonathan Gregory from the University of Reading, UK visited CSHOR on 11-15 February. He presented a public seminar titled, ‘Dependence of climate sensitivity to CO2 on patterns of SST variation’ and met with the CSHOR sea level project team to discuss topics of overlapping research interest, i.e., ocean heat uptake and redistribution in the Southern Ocean, ocean/climate sensitivity experiments, and ocean gyre circulation. Prof Gregory and the CSHOR team also identified opportunities for future collaboration.

Prof Gregory is a well-known climate scientist, working on mechanisms of global and large-scale change in climate and sea level on multidecadal and longer timescales. He is one of three recipients of the prestigious BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Climate Change category for their significant contribution to detecting, understanding and projecting anthropogenic sea-level rise (

Find out more about CSHOR sea-level rise research on the project page.

CSHOR ENSO Science Symposium 29 to 31 January 2019

CSHOR ENSO Science Symposium. IMAS Hobart 29 to 31 January 2019

CSHOR gathered ENSO over 55 experts and students in Hobart over a 3-day symposium to address important scientific questions regarding the reliability of current modelling and observational tools and what advances are required to improve projections of ENSO in a changing climate.

The field of ENSO research is rapidly progressing and it is necessary to re-assess the state of ENSO science.  ENSO significantly impacts our climate, ecosystems, economy and society on a global scale. An improved understanding of its dynamics, evolution, predictability, teleconnection and impact in a climate that is undergoing change is critical to manage risks and resources.  The character of ENSO and the frequency of extreme events may change on a warming planet. Just a couple of years ago an extreme El Niño with major global climatic consequences occurred and one may wonder when the next big one will arrive.

The Symposium was followed by a 2-day writing session for ENSO book authors at CSIRO Marine Laboratories.

Find out more about the symposium at this link and on the CSHOR ENSO and the IOD  project page.

Professor John Church wins top climate change award

January 2019

Prof John Church (photo by Bruce Miller)

Congratulations to John Church on winning the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Climate Change category.

Anny Cazenave (France) and Jonathan Gregory (UK) joined John in receiving the award for their outstanding contributions, the BBVA committee states, “to detecting, understanding and projecting the response of global and regional sea level to anthropogenic climate change.”  Over the past 30 years John has worked with Anny Cazenave and Jonathan Gregory as joint authors on academic papers and on reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an intergovernmental body of the United Nations.

The international award, now in its 11th year, recognises significant contributions in the areas of scientific research and cultural creation. The award will be presented at a ceremony in Madrid in June 2019.

John Church is an important collaborator working with Xuebin Zhang on the CSHOR Southern Ocean role in sea-level change project.

Further information is available on the award website at this link.  A UNSW Newsroom article can be viewed at this link.

CSHOR’s Annie Foppert wins award at QNLM Annual Meeting

January 2019

From the left, Prof Zhimeng ZHUANG, QNLM Deputy Director; Dr. Xu ZHANG, QNLM and Dr Annie Foppert, CSIRO CSHOR, both receiving 2nd prize; and Prof Jinming SONG, QNLM Deputy Director (photo courtesy of QNLM).

Congratulations to Dr Annie Foppert on winning second prize for her presentation at the Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (QNLM) Academic Annual Meeting Young Scholars’ Forum held in Qingdao, China last week. Annie’s talk was titled, ‘Hot spots of eddy-driven transport across the East Antarctic slope’. The prize is 6,000 YUAN (~AU$1,200). The Annual Meeting was held on 10 and 11 January 2019.

QNLM invited many young scientists from QNLM partner organisations both in China and internationally to submit a presentation to the Forum. The presentations were of a high calibre across a broad range of ocean science disciplines.

Our staff also took the opportunity to tour the wonderful facility at QNLM and to attend a banquet in honour of CSHOR’s visit to Qingdao. CSHOR staff received a friendly and gracious reception at QNLM.


Increased variability of eastern Pacific El Niño under greenhouse warming

December 2018

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the dominant and most consequential climate variation on the planet. Answering the question of how ENSO may change under greenhouse warming has been plagued for decades by a persistent lack of inter-model agreement on the response of the associated sea surface temperature variability.

This paper by Cai et al. shows 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. The result means that we can expect more occurrences of extreme weather associated with eastern Pacific El Niño events (the strongest and most destructive of the two types of El Niño events), which will have pronounced implications for the twenty-first century climate, extreme weather and ecosystems. Read the full article at the following link. An associated Nature ‘News and Views’ article is at this link.

Find out more about CSHOR ENSO and the IOD research on the project page.

CSHOR field campaign to support Australian monsoon prediction

In November 2018, a team of scientists from CSIRO and FIO deployed a meteorology and ocean profiling buoy and an array of fast profiling Argo floats to provide a better understanding of the ocean-atmosphere exchanges during the monsoon onset and their underlying ocean dynamics. Read more about this research and future plans at the CSHOR website post.

Moving windows to the deep ocean

November 2018

Dr Veronica Tamsitt was invited to write a ‘News and Views’ article titled, ‘Moving windows to the deep ocean’, for Nature Climate Change (Tamsitt 2018). Read the article at this link.

Find out more about CSHOR Southern Ocean dynamics research on the project page.

Understanding El Niño-Southern Oscillation Complexity

July 2018

El Niño events are characterized by tropical Pacific surface warming and weakening of trade winds occurring every few years. Such conditions are accompanied by changes in atmospheric and oceanic circulation, affecting global climate, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, fisheries and human activities. The alternation of warm El Niño and cold La Niña conditions, referred to as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), represents the strongest year-to-year fluctuation of the global climate system. A Nature review paper published recenlty (Timmermann et al. 2018) provides a synthesis of the current understanding of the spatio-temporal complexity (In terms of amplitude, timing, duration, predictability and global impacts) of this important climate mode and its influence on the earth system. The paper proposes a unifying framework to explain ENSO spatio-temporal complexity, by considering the two most dominant coupled modes of variability on about two-year and four-year time scales. Read the full article at the following link. The CSIRO blog highlighting six reasons you should care about El Niño is also recommended reading.

Find out more about CSHOR ENSO and the IOD research on the project page.

Choosing the future of Antarctica

June 2018

In a recent Nature article, Rintoul et al. present two narratives on the future of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, from the perspective of an observer looking back from 2070. Read the CSHOR post, which includes a link to the full article, at this link.

The global influence of localised dynamics in the Southern Ocean

June 2018

This Nature review by Dr Steve Rintoul evaluates the published research on Southern Ocean change: including changes in circulation, stronger winds, and increased freshwater input. The Southern Ocean exerts a disproportionate and profound influence on global ocean currents, climate, biogeochemical cycles, and sea level rise. The paper shows that substantial progress has been made in recent years in understanding the dynamics and global influence of the Southern Ocean. It is becoming clear that local scale processes play a fundamental part in shaping large-scale circulation. This is driven by the local topography which, of course, doesn’t change to a significant degree. Read the full article at this link.

Find out more about CSHOR Southern Ocean observations and change research on the project page.

CSHOR Science Seminar and Committee Meeting at CSIRO Hobart

The CSHOR office recently hosted a CSHOR Science Seminar and a joint CSHOR Steering and International Advisory Committee Meeting at CSIRO, Hobart. Over 40 guests attended the seminar on Thursday 3 May, including the CSHOR Steering and Advisory Committees. Advisory Committee Members commented that, ‘CSHOR is an excellent team and the science seminar is a great display. The presentations addressed important key questions and highlighted collaboration with other institutions’. Read more at this link.

Global warming is melting Antarctic ice from below

April 2018

The results from a study published in Science Advances, and reported in a recent Guardian article, suggest that increased glacial meltwater input in a warming climate will both reduce Antarctic Bottom Water formation and trigger increased mass loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet, with consequences for the global overturning circulation and sea-level rise. The latest CSHOR post provides more detail and links to the paper and The Guardian article.

Find out more about CSHOR Southern Ocean observations and change research on the project page.

A new wave of southern hemisphere ocean researchers joins CSHOR

April 2018

After a flood of applications and hours spent trawling through CVs, the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research (CSHOR) welcomes six new Postdoctoral Fellows aboard. Read more about the new recruits here.

Recent progress in climate change research

April 2018

In a paper published in Nature Communication (Cai et al. 2018a) we show that the extreme pIOD frequency is projected to increase linearly with the GMT but approaches a maximum as the GMT stabilises, in stark contrast to a continuous increase in the extreme El Niño frequency long after the GMT stabilisation. Further detail can be found at this link.

Find out more about CSHOR ENSO and the IOD research on the project page.

CSHOR wins award in China

April 2018

CSHOR wins an award at the 16th China’s International Talents Exchange Meeting in Shenzhen. Read more about the award at this link.


Changes in the Southern Ocean revealed by researchers aboard the RV Investigator

February 2018

Southern Ocean researchers aboard the RV Investigator  find a shift in a decades-long trend towards fresher, less dense water off Antarctica. Read The Sydney Morning Herald article by Peter Hannam at this link.

Find out more about CSHOR Southern Ocean research on the Southern Ocean observations project page and the Southern Ocean dynamics project page.


Explaining the large increase in ocean heat content in the southern hemisphere oceans

December 2017

A study based on previous Argo float deployments, published in Nature Climate Change (Gao et al., 2017), shows that wind-driven changes in formation and subduction of Subantarctic Mode Water in the Southern Ocean can explain the large increase in ocean heat content in the southern hemisphere oceans.  Further details at:

Find out more about CSHOR Southern Ocean research on the Southern Ocean observations project page and the Southern Ocean dynamics project page.

Understanding the ultimate risk of extreme El Niño associated with a 1.5˚C warming target

July 2017

In a paper published in Nature Climate Change (Wang et al., 2017a) we demonstrate that extreme El Niño frequency increases linearly with the GMT towards a doubling at 1.5 °C warming. This increasing frequency of extreme El Niño events continues for up to a century after GMT has stabilized, underpinned by an oceanic thermocline deepening that sustains faster warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific than the off-equatorial region. Ultimately, this implies a higher risk of extreme El Niño to future generations after GMT rise has halted. On the other hand, whereas previous research suggests extreme La Niña events may double in frequency under the 4.5 °C warming scenario8, the results presented here indicate little to no change under 1.5 °C or 2 °C warming.

The Paris Agreement aims to constrain global mean temperature (GMT) increases to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspirational target of 1.5 °C. However, the pathway to these targets1,2,3,4,5,6 and the impacts of a 1.5 °C and 2 °C warming on extreme El Niño and La Niña events—which severely influence weather patterns, agriculture, ecosystems, public health and economies7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16—is little known. Here, by analysing climate models participating in the Climate Model Intercomparison Project’s Phase 5 (CMIP5; ref. 17) under a most likely emission scenario1,2.

Find out more about CSHOR ENSO and the IOD research on the project page.

CSIRO blogs

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News from QNLM

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