the Scientist – Dr Wenju Cai
Stream Leader Climate and Water
visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to Australia in early April brought back
memories for CSIRO climate modeller, Wenju Cai, of the earliest exchanges
between the two countries.
The 1983 accession of Bob Hawke as Australian Prime Minister proved to be a
milestone in the life and times of Cai, as he is known to colleagues at
CSIRO. A student at Amoy University in southern China, and with a passable
grasp of English, Cai was among a group of students benefited from the Prime
Minister drive to establish trade and cultural relations. In the first phase
of cultural relations, Cai was invited to be included in the initial
exchange of students, after acting as a translator for a collaboration
program between the two countries,
It was a significant step for Cai, and for Australian science, the
beneficiary of his climate modeling expertise. Twenty years on, Cai, from
CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, leads the Climate and Water component
of the Water for a Healthy Country Flagship
and also contributes to the Wealth from Oceans Flagship.
Cai and his colleagues are studying Australia-wide and Regional influences
of climate change, with emphasis in three key areas:
development of foundational knowledge of Australia's climate baselines,
climate change impacts on Australia-wide baselines, and
predictability on seasonal and long-term time scales.
research builds on and applies the mulit-institutional climate work already
underway within CSIRO and partner organisations. The emphasis is on the
application of fundamental climate science understanding and prediction to:
Facilitate improved urban water supply systems
Assist dryland grazing and agricultural practice; and
Maximize opportunities for ecological systems management.
envisaged that as the Flagship grows the Australia-wide Climate and Water
will expand to include
has contributed to the substantial advance of climate knowledge through his
work here and overseas with agencies in Japan, Canada and the United States.
He is lead author on some 40 science publications, and contributed to many
He has helped coordinate research in the Perth-based Indian Ocean Climate
Initiative and the South East Australia Climate project, centred on the
Murray Darling catchment and supported by the Murray - Darling Basin
Commission, the Victorian Government, Land and Water Australia and CSIRO.
from Oceans Flagship
"I think of the influences
on Australian climate as being like a three-headed dog.
"In the Pacific there is the El Nino Southern Oscillation, in the Indian
Ocean a feature with similar characteristics to El Nino called the Indian
Ocean Dipole and the Southern Annular Mode or Antarctic Oscillation.
"Between them, they control the circulation patterns in the ocean basins
around Australia – vast eddy-like super gyres driven by the wind systems and
that in turn have a bearing on the coastal systems of Australia," he said.
Papers by Cai in 2005 and 2006 and published in the Geophysical Research
Letter provide an insight into two outcomes of this research –
link between ozone depletion over the Antarctic and an intensification of
the super-gyre leading to a 20 per cent increase in the strength of the East
Warming of the western Tasman Sea east of Tasmania where temperatures
recorded for more than 50 years at an offshore station near Maria Island
have risen nearly two degrees, and will continue.
"Warming in the latitude around 40°S east of Tasmania is the greatest
anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere and we believe that is the result of
changes in ocean circulation," Cai says.
Those oceanic changes,
when coupled with shifts in wind and pressure systems are influencing
rainfall patterns across Australia. Water supply systems were established
based on a set of climate baselines (annual total rainfall and the
associated inflows) at a time when rainfall was higher than the present
level, with water allocation strategies assuming stationary climate
baselines. Climate variability and change over the past decades have
overturned that assumption.
Science plans for the South East Australia Climate project will be detailed
at the first science workshop in Melbourne on April 19 and 20 – a chance to
get an insight into the research of Cai and his team.
Contact: Dr Wenju Cai, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research
03 9239 4419 Wenju.Cai@csiro.au
IN THIS EDITION:
Message from the Director
Building a Water Resources
Science supporting the Living Murray
Giving revegetation strategies the
Recreation in the Coorong
Real-time monitoring helps irrigators to be water wise
requirements for managed aquifer recharge in WA
Assessing land condition and
sediment delivery in Great Barrier Reef catchments
A community creating its future
Irrigation in the Murray
Meet some scientists from the Water for a
Healthy Country Flagship
Meet Wenju Cai
Meet some students from the Water for a
Healthy Country Flagship
Meet David McCarthy