Lead Author: 

Janice M. Lough 1

Co Authors: Alex Sen Gupta 2 and Alistair J. Hobday 3

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What is happening?

Ocean temperatures around Australia have warmed by 0.68oC since 1910-1929, with south-west and south-eastern waters warming fastest. The rate of temperature rise in Australian waters has accelerated since the mid-20th century; from 0.08oC/decade in 1910-2011 to 0.11oC/decade from 1950-2011.

What is expected?

New results based on a relatively high scenario for greenhouse gas emissions (RCP8.5) indicate greatest warming in south-east (>3oC) and north-west waters (~2.5oC) by the end of this century.

What we are doing about it?

Investing in regional monitoring as part of the Integrated Marine Ocean Observing System (IMOS) to measure changes in ocean temperatures. Developing ocean models to project changes in coming decades. Ongoing development of seasonal forecasting models and applications to support timely adaptation responses by marine users.


Sea surface temperature (SST) surrounding Australia has undergone significant warming since the early 20th century. Average SST for the most recent 20-year period (1992-2011) was 0.68oC warmer than the period 1910-1929. This significant change in regionally-averaged SST is of similar magnitude to the warming of Australian air temperature (+0.74oC) and to globally-averaged land and sea temperatures (+0.71oC) between the same two periods. Australian region SST for every decade from 1921-1930 through 2001-2010 has been warmer than the preceding decade. The rate of globally-averaged temperature rise has accelerated since the mid-20th century; similarly, for Australian waters the rate of warming was 0.08oC/decade from 1910-2011 and 0.11oC/decade from 1950-2011. Since the first Report Card in 2009, the then warmest year (1998) for Australian region SST has been superseded by that in 2010. 15 of the 20 warmest years within the 102-year instrumental record have all occurred within the last 20 years. There continues to be seasonal and spatial variations in the magnitude of SST warming around Australia, with greatest warming off the southeast coast of New South Wales and the east coast of Victoria (especially in summer) and the southwest coast of Western Australia (especially in winter). SST projections in the first Report Card were based on the CMIP3 suite of climate models. These projected, for a high emissions scenario, a ~1oC warming (relative to 1980-1999) by the 2030s and ~1.5-3.0oC warming by the 2070s, with lower rates of warming to the south of the continent and greatest warming east/northeast of Tasmania. In preparation for IPCC-AR5, results from the newly developed CMIP5 models are only just becoming available. A subset of available models for the relatively high RCP8.5 emissions pathway also indicate greatest warming off the southeast coast (~>3oC) by the end of the 21st century, consistent with historical trends, and off northwest Australia (~2.5oC) with lower rates (~2oC) off the southern/southwestern coasts.

Citation: Lough J. et al (2012) Temperature. In A Marine Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Report Card for Australia 2012 (Eds. E.S. Poloczanska, A.J. Hobday and A.J. Richardson). Retrieved from www.oceanclimatechange.org.au. [Date]

Contact Details: 
1 Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville MC, Queensland 4810, Australia .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
2 Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia
3 Climate Adaptation Flagship, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia

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Alistair Hobday

Hobday head shot

Dr Alistair Hobday is a Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research. His research spans a range of topics, including...
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Alex Sen Gupta

Alex sen gupta

Alex is a senior lecturer in climate science at the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. His work examines the role...
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Janice Lough

Janicelough ensoth

Dr Janice Lough is a Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. A climatologist by training, she currently...
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Scientific Review:

Water temperatures are a primary controlling factor for marine life in waters surrounding Australia (Poloczanska et al. 2007). Average water temperatures and their seasonal and interannual variations influence the distribution of species, their seasonal movements, reproductive strategies and various aspects of their physiological performance (see Background Information: Australia's Marine Life). Ongoing human activities, in particular the emission of greenhouse gases, are rapidly altering the composition of the atmosphere. Many independent lines of evidence demonstrate that these atmospheric changes have modified the energy balance of the planet and are driving significant change to the climate system (the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere) (see Allison et al. 2009; Steffen 2009; Cleugh et al. 2011; Keenan and Cleugh 2011 with respect to the Australian region). About 90% of the additional heat associated with the enhanced greenhouse effect has been absorbed by the ocean (Bindoff et al. 2007; Church et al. 2011). As a result, the surface ocean is warming significantly. This, together with other physical and chemical changes in the oceans (e.g. Sen Gupta and McNeil 2012) is affecting the distribution, abundance, and physiology of a wide range of marine species.

Here, we present updated observational data regarding sea surface temperature (SST) for the Australian region, review relevant recent literature, and consider future projections.

Observed Impacts:

Average annual sea surface temperature (SST) varies by ~15oC between Australia’s northern and southern coasts. Warmest temperatures in summer (greater than 28oC) are found around the tropical north and coolest temperatures in winter (less than 20oC) around the southernmost third of the continent. Warm tropical water is transported southwards along both the western and eastern coasts due to the southward-flowing Leeuwin and East Australian currents, respectively (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Mean SST for Australian region, 1979-2008 and major ocean currents. Data source: HadISST (Rayner et al. 2003).

The following assessments of global and regional trends are based on updated versions of the data sets used in the 2009 Report Card – Temperature section (Lough 2009). Australia is fortunate in having robust climate data sets over land (e.g. Jones et al. 2009; http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/acorn-sat/). Ocean observations are sparser and we often rely on global gridded datasets (that do not provide the same level of spatial and temporal detail) to examine ocean temperature changes. Such datasets can underestimate extreme events, absolute temperatures and small-scale variability as recorded by in situ instruments in shallow-water marine environments (e.g. Smale and Wernberg 2009; Lathlean et al. 2011). Thus, although gridded SST products capture relative variations and trends, they may not capture “biologically relevant temperature variations” (Lathlean et al. 2011). There are also some differences between available large-scale SST datasets due to differences in the underlying data sources, alternative interpolation methods, instrumental bias-correction factors, and how satellite observations are included (e.g. Deser et al. 2010; Yasunaka and Hanawa 2011). These differences are more prominent at higher latitudes where source data areis sparser. In the Australian region, there is relatively little difference between alternative datasets. Here we make use of both the HadISST compilation (Rayner et al. 2003; freely available from the British Atmospheric Data Centre: http://badc.nerc.ac.uk/home/index.html) and the NOAA Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature (NOAA_ERSST_V2) data set used by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (Smith and Reynolds 2003, 2004; freely available from NOAA: http://www.cdc.noaa.gov).

Global, Southern Hemisphere and Australian region temperatures over land and sea are all significantly warmer than at the start of the 20th century (Fig. 2, Table 1; see also Blunden et al. 2011; Bureau of Meteorology 2011). The rate of warming of Australian region SST is comparable to the global and Southern Hemisphere averages, whereas warming of Australian air temperatures is slightly greater than surrounding waters and global and Southern Hemisphere averages. Rates of warming of the global and Australian temperature series (Fig. 2) have increased since 1950 (Table 1, see also Gallant and Karoly 2010; Trewin and Vermont 2010; Lough and Hobday 2011 regarding changes observed in recent decades). The relatively cool Australian air temperatures in 2010 and 2011, compared to the decadal mean (Fig. 2b) were due to high rainfall over much of the continent in these years and persistent La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean. For total annual Australian rainfall, 2011 and 2010 were the second and the third wettest years (1974 was the wettest), respectively, within the period 1900-2011 (http://www.bom.gov.au). Warmest years, between 1900 and 2011, of 2005 for Australian air temperatures and 1998 for the global and hemispheric temperature series are the same as reported in the 2009 Report Card, with the exception of (Lough 2009). However, for Australian region SST, the 1998 average annual, 2010 has the warmest SST (+0.54°C) superseding 1998, which was reported as the warmest in the 2009 Report Card. The exceptional warmth of Australian region SST in 2010 is discussed below. Also of note is that 15 of the 20 warmest years in the 102-year SST record have all occurred within the most recent 20 years (1991-2011). This ongoing warming of the Earth’s surface as a whole and the Australian region is highlighted using decadal averages (Fig. 3), which average out some of the short-term natural variations. For the Australian region, since 1921-1930 the SST in each decade has been warmer than the previous decade.

Figure 2: Anomalies of annual temperature (from 1961-1990 mean) for the period 1910-2011 for a) global land and sea temperatures, b) Australian air temperatures over land, and c) Australian region SST. Black line is 10-year Gaussian filter emphasizing decadal variability and dashed line is linear trend (note different temperature scales).Data sources (see Lough, 2009): Australian Bureau of Meteorology (http://www.bom.gov.au/climatechange) and Climatic Research Unit (http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk).

Table 1. Comparisons of annual air and SST changes for the Australian region with global and hemispheric averages for 1910-2011 and 1950-2011.All trends and temperature differences significant at 5% level

Table 2. Linear trends (oC/decade) for annual Australian regional1 SST for the periods 1950-2011 and 1980-2011 based on ERSST V2 data set. All trends significant at 5% level. Note the SW region includes both the fastest and slowest warming areas, thus the overall trend is lower.

1 Regions are as defined by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/about/sst_timeseries.shtml

Figure 3: Decadal average annual temperature anomalies (from 1961-1990 mean), 1911-1920 to 2001-2010 for a) global temperatures, b) Australian air temperatures over land, and c) Australian region SST. Data sources: as Figure 2.

The average annual Australian SST series (Fig. 2c, Fig. 3c) disguises spatial and seasonal variations in observed rates of recent warming (Fig. 4),) as is also evident for tropical oceans (Clement et al. 2010; Xie et al. 2010). Updated trends presented here are similar to those from the 2009 Report Card based on data through 2008. Of note is the relatively large degree of warming off the southeast coast of New South Wales and eastern Victoria, especially in summer (Fig. 4b) and off the western coast of Western Australia, especially in winter (Fig. 4d). For eastern Australia, enhanced warming in the region of the East Australian Current appears to be part of a world-wide intensification of subtropical western boundary currents which are warming faster than global mean SST (Wu et al. 2012). Rates of regional warming are accelerating for the Australian region as a whole, the Northern Tropics and the Coral and Tasman Seas (Table 2).

While there are important spatial differences in warming rates, there are also spatial differences in the magnitude of natural variability. For example, recent studies suggest that tropical regions, where seasonal and inter-annual temperature variability is smaller than at higher latitudes, may experience large changes relative to the typical natural variability (e.g. Mahlstein et al. 2011). This can be seen in Fig. 5, which shows the ratio of observed SST warming to the magnitude of natural year-to-year variability. Despite relatively large warming along the southeast and southwest coasts (c.f. Fig. 4a, discussed above), the largest warming-to-variability ratio changes have occurred in the near-equatorial waters northeast of Australia (Fig. 5b). This may have implications for marine species sensitive to change beyond the level of natural variability to that they are normally exposed. A recent observational analysis has, for example, demonstrated that the rate of movement in thermal regimes has been as great over the oceans as land areas and that observed shifts are high in the low temperature-variability regions of parts of the tropical oceans (Burrows et al. 2011).

Results described above are primarily based on large-scale (1-2o latitude by longitude boxes) gridded monthly SST data sets. Recently, daily 0.25o satellite-based SST trends (Reynolds et al. 2007) have been examined for coastal regions around the world (Lima and Wethey 2012; http://www.coastalwarming.com/), which are likely to be more relevant for coastal marine ecosystems. For the Australian coast (641 boxes), 74% show a significant warming trend over the period 1982-2010, with a median warming of 0.19oC/decade. Greatest warming rates (greater than or equal to 0.25oC/decade) are along the southeast Australian coast between 32-38oS (matching the higher rate of warming observed in the larger-scale SST compilations, e.g. Fig. 4) and in the Spencer Gulf. Only 1.6% of the Australian coastal boxes show a significant cooling trend and these are in Shark Bay and Exmouth Gulf – geographic features not evident in the larger-scale SST compilations. 31% of Australia’s coastal region shows a significant increase in the number of extremely hot days (greater than 95th percentile). The increase in extremely hot days (median increase of +12.3 days) is mainly along the southern Australian coastline ~35oS. 31% of Australia’s coastal region shows a significant decrease in the number of extremely cold days (less than 5th percentile). This decrease (median decrease of -11.7 days) is in the region of maximum warming off southeast Australia, van Diemen Gulf, Princess Charlotte Bay, Spencer Gulf and the Great Australian Bight. The study of Lima and Wethey (2012) also examined changes in the timing of seasonal warming poleward of 30oS or 30oN, represented by 294 boxes for the Australian coastal region. 25% of these showed a significant change (median ~-10 days per decade; i.e. maximum seasonal warming occurring sooner); again these changes were most evident in the area of maximum warming off southeast Australia, the Spencer Gulf, and the eastern part of the Great Australian Bight (see Figures 4 and 5).

Figure 4: Linear SST trend (oC/decade) for a) annual, 1950-2010, b) summer, c) autumn, d) winter, and e) spring, 1950-2011. Data source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology (http://www.bom.gov.au/climatechange).

Figure 5: a) Difference between (1981-2010) and (1951-1980) SST averages °C across the Australian region, and b) difference from (a) divided by monthly standard deviation. Data source: HadISST (Rayner et al. 2003).

Record warmth of Australian region SST: 2010-2011

Annual Australian region SST was at an all time high in 2010, based on the instrumental record (Fig. 2c). October to December 2010 SST was the highest on record around much of tropical Australia extending from the southern Great Barrier Reef in the east, across the north coast and from here to the southwestern tip of Western Australia (Fig. 6). The very warm SST and the tropical circulation patterns associated with the exceptionally strong 2010-2011 La Niña event also contributed to high continental rainfall (Bureau of Meteorology 2011). This record warmth persisted through much of 2011 off southwest Western Australia, with each month from March to October 2011 being the warmest on record (Fig. 7). Months of August through October 2011 each exceeded the previous maximum in 2010.

This “marine heat wave” off southwest Western Australia in early 2011 (Fig. 8) is attributed to the combination of the strong La Niña, which typically enhances the southward flow of the Leeuwin Current bringing warm tropical waters further south than in other ocean basins (indicated by elevated sea levels; see Feng et al. 2009), superimposed onto the long-term ocean warming (Pearce et al. 2011). Significant ecological impacts of these unusually warm waters included fish kills, coral bleaching and southward movement of tropical species (Pearce et al. 2011). Widespread coral bleaching was observed, for the first time, at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands (~28oS), as well as an overgrowth of kelp in April 2011 (Smale and Wernberg 2012). Species-specific coral bleaching was also observed in deep (>20 m) water sites off Rottnest Island (~32oS) in May 2011 (Thomson et al. 2011).

Figure 6: SST deciles for September-December 2010 relative to 1900-2010 (Bureau of Meteorology, 2011).

Figure 7: Monthly SST anomalies for southwest region from August 2010 through November 2011 (red bars) and previous monthly maximum and year (grey bars). Bold red bars denote months that were warmest on record since 1900.

Figure 8: High-resolution satellite SST data for April in the most recent 9 years off southwest Australia. Data source: CSIRO Marine Research Remote Sensing facility (http://www.cmar.csiro.au/remotesensing/).

Potential Impacts by the 2030s and 2100s: 

Potential temperature changes by the 2030s and 2100s

It is very likely that SST around Australia will continue to warm through the 21st century, with some regional and seasonal variations in the magnitude that has already been observed (Fig. 4; Table 2). Robust projections of future changes in Australian SST depend on reliably capturing changes in major ocean current systems (see review in Hobday and Lough 2011). The observational evidence for the intensification of the East Australian Current is strong and this trend is expected to continue into the future, leading to regionally enhanced warming off southeast Australia (Sen Gupta et al. 2009). How the smaller and more seasonal Leeuwin Current, which significantly affects marine ecosystems off the southwestern coast of Western Australia, is harder to model. This current is strongly modulated by the strength of the Pacific trade wind fields on both decadal (Feng et al. 2011) and inter-annual time scales (ENSO; see 2010-2011 example above). As such, understanding future changes requires robust projections of Pacific atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns. Climate models tend to indicate a weakening of the Leeuwin Current in the future (Feng et al. 2009).

There is however considerable spread in projections simulated by climate models and it is difficult to assess which of the climate models are more reliable (e.g. Stock et al. 2011). Models can be validated against historical observations, although it is often difficult to decide on the best models, as different ones will often perform better in different aspects of the climate system (see, for example, recent evaluation of model performances for the tropical Pacific by Irving et al. 2011).

IPCC-AR4 presented ensemble projections based on up to 23 models. These were coordinated through the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) of the World Climate Research Programme. In preparation for IPCC-AR5, output from the CMIP5 (CMIP phase 5) generation of global climate simulations is gradually being made available (http://cmip-pcmdi.llnl.gov/cmip5/). CMIP5 encompasses a wider range of model experiments than those considered in CMIP3, including experiments to help understand both short-term (decadal) and long-term (centennial) projections. CMIP5 includes models with higher spatial resolution and more sophisticated representations of physical, chemical and, in some cases, biological processes (Taylor et al. 2012). These new model simulations no longer use the familiar greenhouse gas emissions scenarios (SRES: e.g. A1F1A1FI, A2, B2) as used in IPCC-AR4, CMIP3 but use model experiments based on Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs; Moss et al. 2010; Meinshausen et al. 2011). These encompass a broader range of possible scenarios relating to emissions, mitigation and stabilisation strategies and their nomenclature is based on their radiative forcing (W/m2 – heating of the atmosphere) by the end of the 21st century (see Fig. 9 for associated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations).

Although these new inputs to CMIP5 are incomplete, we present preliminary results for the Australian region annual SST projections based on RCP8.5 from 11 currently available global climate models . As with the older SRES scenarios, RCPs allow us to examine temperature changes that we might expect based on multiple plausible future greenhouse emission trajectories. Due to data availability, we present only the highest emissions pathway (RCP8.5). Other, lower emission RCPs, will also be available. The current rate of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions is still accelerating (Le Quéré et al. 2009; Peters et al. 2012) and without concerted global effort the high levels of future atmospheric carbon dioxide prescribed in RCP8.5 are feasible. For the CMIP3 models, high and low emissions scenarios tend to produce similar magnitude changes in the oceans in the near-term (2030s) and only start to diverge in the latter half of the 21st century (e.g. Ganachaud et al. 2011; Lough et al. 2011).

Although warming by 2100 in the CMIP5 models is projected everywhere in the Australian region (Fig. 10), there are regional differences in the magnitude of warming (from less than 1.5oC to more than 3.0oC), based on a mean of the available models) that are quite consistent across the 11 models examined so far. The general pattern of SST warming is similar to the high emissions scenario reported in the 2009 Report Card (see Fig. 4 in Lough 2009). Key features are:

• greatest warming (greater than 3.2oC) off southeastern Australia
• relatively large warming (~2.8 to 2.9oC) off northwestern Australia
• slower rates of warming (less than 2.2oC) in southern waters, especially south of ~30oS and west of 140oE, and
• warming of ~2.5oC off the northeast Australian coast (encompassing the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea).

These regional differences are further illustrated by the temporal evolution of the annual 11-model average SST through 2100 (Fig. 11) for the entire Australian and six regions (Table 2).

1 The 11 models are: ACCESS1-0, CNRM-CM5, CSIRO-Mk3-6-0, CanESM2, GFDL-ESM2M, GISS-E2-R, MIROC5, MRI-CGM3CGCM3, NorESM1-M, bcc-csm1-1 and inmcm4

Figure 9: Atmospheric CO2 concentrations (ppm) associated with four RCP scenarios through 2300. Data source: http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~mmalte/rcps/.

Figure 10: Projected change in SST for end of 21st century based on RCP8.5 scenario. Areas where at least 10/11 models agree that warming is greater or less than the region average are mottled.

Figure 11: Projected annual SST anomalies (relative to 1990-2000, see Table 2) for 1950-2100 for a) Australian region, b) Northern Tropics, c) Southern Region, d) Northwest Region, e) Southwest Region, f) Coral Sea and g) Tasman Sea. The dashed blue line (in all graphs) is the Australian region, multi-model mean; black line is regional multi-model mean; red lines are ±1 standard deviation range of 11 models; and dashed red lines show spread across 11 models (regions as defined by Bureau of Meteorology http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/about/sst_timeseries.shtml see T,able 2).

Confidence Assessments

Observed Impacts: 

There is HIGH confidence from various observational records that SST around Australia has warmed significantly over the past century and that the rate of warming is accelerating.

Potential Impacts by the 2030s and 2100s: 

Potential impacts by the 2030s and 2100s

There is HIGH confidence from theory and models that Australian waters will continue to warm through the 21st century. Confidence levels vary regionally, with HIGH confidence of enhanced (relative to region) warming off southeastern and northwestern Australia, and lesser warming to the south of the continent and MEDIUM confidence in the magnitude of warming off northeastern Australia. Based on our preliminary analysis, there is agreement across models that the southeast and northwestern regions will warm faster than the regional average, while to the south of Australia much of the ocean warms slower than the regional average.

Observations and Modelling

Observation programs

Observations of SST around Australia come from several sources: 1) satellite-based remote sensing; 2) underway measurements from ships of opportunity and research vessels; 3) fixed location monitoring sites; and 4) Argo provides upper ocean (0-2000m) temperature and salinity observations of the global oceans (http://www.argo.ucsd.edu). Additional sources are described at http://imos.org.au/facilities.html The l.ongest time series come from the ships and shore stations, with satellite data available for some locations and time periods from the 1970s, but only consistently available for all our oceans since the mid-1980s. Despite reduced data coverage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the long-term trends in air and SSTs appear to be robust (Rayner et al. 2003; Brohan et al. 2006). Australia does not own a satellite with remote sensing capability for the ocean, but scientists and the public have access to those operated by Europe, Japan, USA, and other nations. Data are available from single satellite observations or combined from a range of satellites to provide averages at weekly or longer scales. These data are freely accessed via the internet from a range of providers.

SST has been directly measured at a number of sites around Australia, with some 44 datasets initiated between 1942 and 1980. Of these, only three are still continuing today – Maria Island (from 1944), Port Hacking (1942), and Rottnest Island (1951), with monthly sampling. These time series are extremely valuable, as there are few if any other multi‐decadal series in the coastal oceans for the Southern Hemisphere. They have been used in a number of studies describing changes around Australia (e.g. Ridgway 2007, Pearce and Feng, 2007; Hill et al. 2008). This high quality fixed location data is managed by the IMOS National Reference Station project (http://imos.org.au/fileadmin/user_upload/shared/ANMN/NRS_rationale_and_implementation_100811.pdf). The National Reference Stations include both moored sensors and routine vessel‐based sampling. High-frequency sampling (e.g. every 15 minutes) is possible at some of the instrumented locations, while monthly sampling is typical for the vessel-based sampling (Fig. 12). Additional in situ and ongoing monitoring programs for tropical locations (see Lough et al. 2010) include AIMS’ Automatic Weather Stations (http://www.aims.gov.au/docs/research/monitoring/weather/weather.html) and sea temperature logger program (available through AIMS Data Centre http://data.aims.gov.au/).

The Ships of Opportunity facility is also coordinated by IMOS, and uses a combination of volunteer merchant and, less frequently, research vessels to collect measurements related to physical, chemical and biological oceanography (see http://imos.org.au/sst.html). Data from ships of opportunity are aggregated into regional (e.g. CARS) or global products (e.g. COADS).

The recent high-resolution satellite-based study of coastal SST trends (Lima and Wethey 2012) highlights the need for additional in situ temperature monitoring along Australia’s coastline and especially within bays and estuaries – regions not currently well-covered by existing, larger-scale data sets. Such data also provide important ground-truthing of high-resolution satellite-based observations. Ideally, in the current era of rapid environmental changes and potentially significant ecological impacts, this should be part of a comprehensive coupled physical-biological monitoring program.

Figure 12: Locations of IMOS National Reference Stations (http://www.imos.org.au/anmnnrs.html).


The Australian Government, through the Bureau of Meteorology, Royal Australian Navy and CSIRO has initiated BLUElink, a $15 M project to deliver ocean forecasts for the Australian region. This project also produces high-quality hindcasts of SST and other ocean properties. Data are publicly available from CSIRO and BOM (e.g. http://www.bom.gov.au/oceanography/forecasts). The BLUElink model is also being used to examine ocean projections for the Australian region at much higher spatial scales than those available from global climate models (e.g. Sun et al. 2011).

There are currently two Australian Global Climate Models that will contribute to the CMIP5 project informing IPCC-AR5. The first model, CSIRO Mk3.6, is an upgraded version of the Mk3.5 model that contributed to CMIP3.The second model is the newly developed Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator (ACCESS, http://www.accessimulator.org.au/). Considerable research effort is currently going into analyzing the new CMIP5 model output for both the Australian region and the global domain. A major advance in some of the new CMIP5 models will be the incorporation of important biogeochemical processes within the ocean (Taylor et al. 2012).

Current and planned research effort

• Further improvements in confidence in observed and future Australian region SST change are likely as additional CMIP5 models outputs become available. The higher-resolution, greater range of models and greater range of experiments (e.g. decadal vs centennial changes) should contribute to reducing uncertainty as to how Australian water temperatures will evolve and whether observed regional differences in warming are likely to continue into the future under different emissions/mitigation/stabilization scenarios.
• A key analysis of the full range of CMIP5 models will be to examine their reliability and consistency for the Australian region.
• Improved observational and modelling analyses of how regional ocean circulation patterns will change, especially the Leeuwin and East Australian currents.
• Ongoing commitment and support of long-term high-quality observational systems for Australian waters, primarily through the Integrated Marine Ocean Observing System (http://www.imos.org.au), but also through historical in situ observational programs (see Observation Programs below). Such data provide important verification of longer-term, but less spatially detailed datasets, ground-truthing of satellite observations, and linking physical and biological components of the marine environment at scales relevant to the physiological processes of marine organisms.
• Ongoing development of operational seasonal forecasts for marine waters as, for example, undertaken for levels of thermal stress on the Great Barrier Reef in summer (Spillman 2011; poama.bom.gov.au/).

Further Information



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