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Climate change in the ocean surrounding Australia

PI: Siobhan O'Farrell
Institution: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Additional Investigators: Steve Rintoul
We propose to analyse output from AR4 runs to assess the potential for climate change in the oceans surrounding Australia. One area of particular interest is the Tasman Sea. Output from the CSIRO Mk2 and Mk3 models shows a local maximum in warming between Australia and New Zealand. A brief survey of other simulations available to us as part of another CMIP sub-project showed the feature is common to many models, although the location and magnitude of the warming differs between models. Observations also show that temperature and salinity have increased in parts of the Tasman Sea during recent decades and there is anecdotal evidence that warm-water species have spread south along the southeast coast during the same period.

Other ocean regions surrounding Australia are also of interest. We plan to use the AR4 projections to develop scenarios of future marine climate change in Australia’s oceans, as input to marine climate impacts studies. The study will focus on changes in stratification, circulation (including boundary currents and major fronts) and water mass properties, with an emphasis on fields relevant to marine impacts (eg fisheries, biodiversity, coral reefs). Diagnostic studies will be carried out to identify the dynamical mechanisms driving the projected changes. We anticipate that the study of theTasman Sea and perhaps one or two other regions will be completed in time for the IPCC 4AR; the impacts studies themselves will likely take more time. We plan to use output from the control and 20th century runs, plus some key SRES scenarios (eg A1B, B1 and A2, if available). Model data required will include 3-D fields of ocean temperature salinity and velocities in the Indian and Pacific basins, horizontal and overturning streamfunctions, and air-sea forcing fields (wind stress, heat flux components, freshwater flux, sea-level pressure).

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