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Climate processes, predictability and impacts in a warming Indian Ocean

Changes in ocean temperatures are having far reaching impacts on the WA marine ecosystem.
The institution's climate change research is carried out in its six nodes of research but is particularly prominent in Node 2 (Climate processes, precitability and impacts in a warming Indian Ocean) which has been allocated $2.4 million to conduct strategic research in the Indian Ocean and the sub-Antarctic Southern Ocean, upwind from WA in the westerly air-streams. 

The research identifies links between large scale variations in the ocean and impacts on the marine environment off WA. It focuses on identifying ocean-processes that feed back to the atmosphere and give persistence and predictability to climate anomalies.

Node 2 has three projects with the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

 Research projects include:

  •  identifying large-scale variations in the ocean and its effect on the WA marine ecosystem;
  • predicting future changes in the eastern Indian and subantarctic Southern Ocean and their effect on WA’s marine environment;
  • projecting climate change signals in the Leeuwin Current;
  • assessing the impacts of climate change at Ningaloo Reef;
  • forecasting seasonal changes of large-scale ocean off the WA coast;
  • identifying ocean-processes that interact with the atmosphere and provide help predict irregular climate events; and
  • delivering climate research on a variety of scales, from the entire Indian Ocean, the Leeuwin Current, to Ningaloo Reef, and ranging from seasonal, inter-annual, to long-term changes.

 Preliminary findings

  • An enhanced warming trend off WA has been measured and is linked to changes in regional atmospheric circulation.
  • The Indonesian Throughflow and Leeuwin Current flow rates have reduced by 25 to 30 per cent since 1960s – a decline probably caused by more frequent El Niño events in the Pacific in recent decades, and by climate change.
  • The Indian Ocean Dipole events can be accurately forecast one to two seasons in advance.
  • The strength of the Leeuwin Current can be accurately forecast six months to one year in advance.
  • Observation systems have been set up for long term monitoring of the environment off the Ningaloo Reef tract.
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