PROJECT 2.4: Changing oceans and Australia’s future climate
Ocean heat uptake is one of the primary rate-setters of global warming. Over 93% of the extra heat stored by the Earth over the past 50 years is found in the ocean. This has not been well integrated into Australia’s climate models. To interpret past changes, and better simulate changes in the climate we need to understand how the ocean takes up heat, and how ocean heat uptake may change as the planet warms.
We’re using data collected from ocean monitoring (historical archives, Argo floats and research vessels) to improve understanding of past changes in ocean temperature and salinity. We’re using this data to identify sources of bias in ocean heat update efficiency in climate models, as well as to examine the connection between ocean salinity changes and water balance over Australia.
This research will result in better representation of ocean processes in climate models, which will improve projections of future warming, sea-level rise and water availability for Australia. This work will also inform ocean-related climate change policy.
For more information
Dr Steve Rintoul, CSIRO
This project is contributing to meeting the following climate challenges:
Oceans are the dominant source of water vapour that feeds precipitation over land. Surface ocean warming is driving an enhanced hydrological cycle. We’re monitoring ocean salinities, which can help track that process.
Ocean warming rates and patterns set regional sea level rise rates. Our work will improve projections of ocean warming rates, which will enable more accurate regional projections of sea level rise and extremes.
As the climate system’s heat reservoir, the rate of change of ocean heat content relates directly to Earth’s warming rate. Our work tracking and understanding global ocean heating rates is the only practical means of tracking the efficacy of global greenhouse gas mitigation efforts.
Publications and papers
Silvano A, Rintoul SR, Peña-Molino B, Williams GD. 2017. Distribution of water masses and glacial meltwater on the continental shelf near the Totten Glacier. Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, 122, 2050–2068, doi:10.1002/2016JC012115.