sea level rise

Climate variability and change

Scientists are developing climate forecasting systems and providing information on climate variability, change and adaptation.

  • 15 February 2011 | Updated 14 October 2011

CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research scientists engaged in research on climate variability and change are based at laboratories in Hobart (Tasmania) and Aspendale (Victoria).

They partner with scientists at the Bureau of Meteorology through The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, and with other CSIRO scientists, to investigate:

  • climate variability, its processes, drivers and predictability
  • climate change science, particularly mechanisms of past change and projections for the future at the regional scale, especially for Australia and the Pacific
  • sea-level rise
  • potential impacts
  • the adaptation process.

Scientific advice on climate

The scientists work with federal, state and regional governments and agencies, industries and the wider community to assess the risks associated with climate, from seasonal to century-long timescales.

They address climate vulnerability, as well as options for mitigation and adaptation.

National climate change projections produced by CSIRO in 2007 have been used widely in planning and policy-making.

Other studies have helped to shape national and state policies for managing drought, bushfire, coastal development, and water resources.

Information and advice is also provided to international agencies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the World Climate Research program and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics.

A key challenge is to understand the processes that influence Australia’s climate variability and predictability, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation.

Sea-level data sets developed by CSIRO scientists have been adopted as the international standard by the United Nations Development Program.

Science challenges

A key scientific challenge is to understand the processes that influence Australia’s climate variability and predictability, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation and the Indian Ocean Dipole.

Improved representations of these influences in climate models will lead to better climate predictions, with significant benefits for natural resource management.

Another important area of research is the nature of historical and future sea-level change, and the impact of sea-level rise on coastal areas.


Climate processes: 

  • understanding dynamical processes involved with weather systems, climate variability and predictability
  • understanding the causes of past and future regional climate change.

Seasonal prediction science:

  • diagnosing and monitoring climate variability, dynamics and predictability
  • understanding mechanisms of tropical variability, tropical meteorology
  • forecast evaluation and calibration
  • ensemble and statistical forecasting.

Seasonal prediction systems:

  • developing modelling systems and tools to predict global and regional climate for lead times of two weeks to one year including:
    • ocean data assimilation systems
    • coupled ocean-atmosphere models and model initialisation
    • ensemble forecasting.

Regional climate projections:

  • evaluating climate model performance
  • selecting climate models for use in projections
  • developing regional projections and projections of changes in extreme weather events using a range of modelling approaches that are fit-for-purpose.

Coastal and sea level:

  • developing better estimates of past sea-level rise
  • understanding and improving projections of sea-level rise, storm surges and surface waves
  • assessing coastal impacts.

Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability:

  • tailoring climate data for use in risk assessment
  • collaborating on risk assessments
  • developing methods to assess risk and enable adaptation.

Research applications

CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research capabilities in Climate Variability and Change are applied to research projects in the Climate and Atmosphere Theme and four CSIRO National Research Flagships:

  • Climate Adaptation
  • Wealth from Oceans
  • Energy Transformed
  • Water for a Healthy Country.

Read more about CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.