Understanding the complexities of the southern oceans
More than 80 per cent of the Southern Hemisphere is covered in oceans and until very recently these vast oceans were largely unmeasured and poorly understood.
Researchers do know that the southern oceans play a critical role in the global climate system through absorbing more heat and carbon dioxide than any other ocean region; influencing cycles of floods and droughts; and controlling the fate of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and its contribution to sea level rise.
Deepening our knowledge on climate and oceans
To develop a deeper understanding of the role of southern oceans in the global climate system, CSIRO, in May 2017, collaborated to create the $20 million Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research (CSHOR).
Together with the Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (QNLM) and university partners the University of New South Wales and the University of Tasmania, the new Centre set out to conduct fundamental research on the ocean's role in a changing climate.
CSHOR currently conducts research to improve our understanding of the complex nature of the climate system, leading to information, products and services to assist Australia, China and the world to better manage the impacts of climate variability and climate change.
The Centre builds on CSIRO's strong history of research leadership in the southern hemisphere oceans, and on our long history of international collaboration, including over 40 years of collaboration with China.
Answering fundamental questions to improve climate response
Research is undertaken across a number of key projects, answering the following fundamental questions about the southern oceans' role in future climate:
- How will the El Niño – La Niña cycles that bring floods and drought to Australia will change with climate change?
- How will changes in the ocean, including interaction with Antarctic ice shelves, impact sea level rise?
- What is the role of the Indian Ocean Dipole and the Southern Annual Mode in the future climate?
- What role will southern oceans play in future distribution of heat and carbon dioxide across the planet?
- How do the oceans north of Australia influence regional and global climate, and how will these regions change in the future?
CSHOR research has begun to address some of the key challenges in climate science, such as El Niño-Southern Oscillation complexity, interactions between the three tropical oceans, and the role of Southern Ocean heat sequestration in the fate of the Antarctic sea ice, Antarctic land ice, and global sea level in a warming climate.
Its research is also helping to underpin the next generation of climate projections needed to inform effective responses to climate change and variability, including those produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
CSHOR's research is made publicly available and regularly published in high-profile peer-reviewed journals such as Nature and Nature Climate Change. This research contributes to Australian, Chinese and global efforts to effectively anticipate and adapt to future change.