Ocean study explores link with Australian rainfall

Jul 28, 2004

A five-nation oceanographic team is taking the first steps in a $3.6 million project studying the major flow of ocean currents between Asia and Australia and how they influence rainfall across Southern Australia and Indonesia.

Scientists are investigating fluctuations in the flow of warm waters from the western Pacific Ocean draining through the Indonesian Archipelago into the Indian Ocean north of Australia.

"Our climate, and particularly the amount of rainfall across the country, is regulated by the oceans around Australia," says CSIRO's Dr Susan Wijffels.

"Through new satellite and sub-surface technologies we are gradually building a picture of these key influences on rain-bearing cloud band systems in the eastern Indian Ocean. Over the next three years we hope to understand the variations that occur to the flow of currents including any effects of El Nino and La Nina events," Dr Wijffels says.

Dr Wijffels is co-leader of the project, called INSTANT. Sub-surface ocean monitoring equipment valued at more than $2 million has been moored at strategic 'choke' points across the entry of the currents into Indonesia waters, and their exit to the Indian Ocean through Lombok and Ombai Straits and Timor Passage.

Partially funded by the Australian Greenhouse Office and CSIRO, the array of tidal gauges and ocean moorings will sample pressures, currents, temperature and salinity and provide a record of changing conditions.

Dr Wijffels says the INSTANT science team, comprising US, French, Dutch and Indonesian scientists, has successfully deployed highly sophisticated measuring instruments in the straits from the Indonesian research vessels, Baruna Jaya I and VIII.

She says the data collected will be compared with simple models and computer simulations of the tropical oceans, and the way the oceans then interact with the atmosphere.

"The atmosphere is very sensitive to the distribution of warm waters near the equator. In our region two large warm water pools exist - in the Western Pacific and Eastern Indian Ocean.

"We believe the exchange of warm low salinity water between the Pacific and Indian Oceans through the Indonesian passages will yield critical information on how these two 'pools' of warm water in our region interact."

Dr Wijffels says it will be at least 18 months before scientists can retrieve the information obtained from the ocean instruments, which are sub-surface and will be serviced and redeployed by the INSTANT team using Indonesian ships in 2005.

Indonesian participation in the project will also have broad benefits, according to joint project Director, Dr Ir. Indroyono Soesilo, of the Indonesian Agency for Marine and Fisheries Research.

"Improved climate predictions will benefit many people living in areas affected by El Nino/La Nina and the Asian-Australian Monsoon," Dr Soesilo says.

"The Republic of Indonesia is strongly affected by these phenomena, and will be able to use the model projections to make informed management decisions regarding agricultural, water and fisheries resource issues and prepare for climate-related forest fires.

"Measurements of the way these waters mix in regions such as the Flores and Banda Seas will provide an important understanding of the processes that sustain fisheries stocks in these seas."

Dr Tony Haymet, Chief of CSIRO Marine Research, emphasises that the INSTANT team research is both an important international research project in its own right, and also a key step in the steady expansion of CSIRO's research with partners in the oceans north and west of Australia.

Australia has an extensive oceans and climate research program, particularly in the Indian and Southern Oceans, and participates in many international monitoring projects such as the global float array Argo.

Source: CSIRO

Explore further: Mysteries of space dust revealed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Alibaba's revenue growth surges in latest quarter

46 minutes ago

Alibaba's quarterly revenue growth is surging again, a development that should help the Chinese e-commerce company sell its shares in what could become the technology industry's most lucrative IPO.

Water 'thermostat' could help engineer drought-resistant crops

48 minutes ago

Duke University researchers have identified a gene that could help scientists engineer drought-resistant crops. The gene, called OSCA1, encodes a protein in the cell membrane of plants that senses changes in water availability ...

Intel says world's smallest 3G modem has been launched

1 hour ago

Analysts say why not. Intel is going after its own comfortable stake in the mobile market, where connectivity for wearables and "Internet of Things" household items will be in high demand. Intel on Tuesday ...

Recommended for you

Mysteries of space dust revealed

7 hours ago

The first analysis of space dust collected by a special collector onboard NASA's Stardust mission and sent back to Earth for study in 2006 suggests the tiny specks open a door to studying the origins of the ...

A guide to the 2014 Neptune opposition season

12 hours ago

Never seen Neptune? Now is a good time to try, as the outermost ice giant world reaches opposition this weekend at 14:00 Universal Time (UT) or 10:00 AM EDT on Friday, August 29th. This means that the distant ...

How can we find tiny particles in exoplanet atmospheres?

12 hours ago

It may seem like magic, but astronomers have worked out a scheme that will allow them to detect and measure particles ten times smaller than the width of a human hair, even at many light-years distance.  ...

Spitzer telescope witnesses asteroid smashup

Aug 28, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the ...

User comments : 0