Future changes in the South Equatorial Current and East Australian Current from dynamical downscaling of CMIP5 projections

Dr Chaojiao Sun1, Craig Steinberg2

1CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Perth, Australia, 2AIMS, Townsville, Australia


In this study future changes in physical oceanographic processes in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) are investigated using a high-resolution (10km horizontal resolution) near-global ocean model (75S-75N), forced with CMIP5 multi-model-mean climate change signals under the high emission scenario, the greenhouse gas concentration trajectory of Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5). In particular the changes in the South Equatorial Current (SEC) and East Australian Current (EAC) are investigated and their relationship with the wind and each other are explored. The ocean circulation in the Great Barrier Reef region is influenced by the basin-scale ocean circulation, especially the EAC and the Gulf of Papua Current, which result from the bifurcation of the SEC when it reaches the Australian continental shelf. The SEC bifurcation latitude marks the division of the warm tropical gyre and cool subtropical gyre at the western boundary. Several studies have shown that there is a long-term southward shift of the SEC bifurcation latitude over the last 60 years. We show that the SEC bifurcation continues shifting southward for the next 100 years; and we explore its implications for the physical connectivity in the GBR region and how the East Australian Current will change in the future and how that might affect the ecosystem downstream.


Chaojiao is a senior research scientist and a team leader in CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere. Chaojiao is a physical oceanographer with over twenty years of experience in the areas of ocean modelling and data assimilation, ocean dynamics, climate change science, and dredge plume modelling, having worked both in the USA and Australia. Previously at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, she developed data assimilation methods for assimilating satellite snow observations into a NASA catchment model and assimilating ocean observations into a global ocean model for improving seasonal prediction at the Global Modelling and Assimilation Office. Her current areas of specialisation/research interests include: the role of ocean currents and eddies in connectivity; impact of climate change on ocean boundary currents; ocean data assimilation to improve model prediction; and dredge plume modelling in the context of environmental impact assessment.


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