Ocean robots watching our climate

November 19, 2002

Robots are being installed deep in the Indian Ocean to help scientists understand Australia's changing climate.

The robotic floats may ultimately form part of a larger monitoring program to uncover the role that the Indian Ocean plays in the monsoons of the continents of Africa, Asia and Australia.

"Improved climate prediction for the nations around the Indian Ocean would impact on the lives of almost two thirds of the world's population," says CSIRO's Dr Gary Meyers.

Cycling between the surface and a depth of two kilometres every 10 days, the robots will be sampling ocean conditions in a region thought to be a source of southern Australian rainfall.

The information collected by the robots about water temperature, salinity and currents is sent via satellite to ground stations around the world. The data is essential in the quest to better understand and predict changes in rainfall and climate change.

CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology will have 19 Argo ocean robots in place by Christmas, completing an array of profiling floats extending from Indonesia to Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia as the Australian contribution in an international effort to observe the world's oceans.

"This is a key region for the global climate system and the instrument placements will provide our best coverage to begin to understand how the Indian Ocean affects climate in our region, says Dr Meyers."

"We want to understand the mechanism of so-called 'northwest cloud bands' and the possibility that subsurface ocean conditions control how frequently they form", Dr Meyers said.

He was speaking following an international conference in Mauritius to shape development of the Indian Ocean Observing System. Dr Meyers convened the climate sessions.

The conference was called to identify the needs of, and potential contributions to an ocean monitoring program benefitting all the countries around the Indian Ocean rim.

In addition to floats, participants at the conference planned an integrated observing system that utilises data collected by moored and drifting instruments, merchant ships and satellites, and combines the different data types in a computer-generated ocean state estimation.

"There was tremendous enthusiasm from all the country-representatives to develop a basin-wide ocean monitoring system as the basis of a predictive system for understanding climate change, for identifying impacts on the marine environment and for prediction of rainfall variability.

"The benefits begin with basic regional climate research but have substantial environmental, economic and social implications." Dr Meyers said.

Two of Australia's major partnerships in ocean-observation were represented at the conference. The Indonesian Agency for Ocean Research and Fisheries (BRKP) is also assisting with regional float deployments, with the help of the Darwin-based commercial shipping industry, Perkins.

The Australia-United States Climate Action Partnership announced in February, 2002 by Environment Minister Dr David Kemp facilitates international cooperation on climate change issues. The partnership is focused on practical emission reduction activities, and exchange of scientific expertise, technology and innovation that offer mutual benefits to the two countries.

More information:

Craig Macaulay, CSIRO Marine 03-62325219,
Leane Regan, CSIRO Media 02-6276- 6478, 0419-236-519

NB News Editors

To support the story, the following are available -

· High Resolution photographs
· Indian Ocean and global maps of Australian/international robot deployments
· Dr Gary Meyers, CSIRO's Argo project leader.


Web links:
http://www.marine.csiro.au/LeafletsFolder/49float/49float.html;
http://www-argo.ucsd.edu/.
-end-


CSIRO Australia

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.