Joint media release: World-first marine heatwave research

21 August 2020

The Hon. Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
The Hon. Karen Andrews MP, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology

World-first research funded by the Morrison Government is paving the way for a critical forecasting service that could provide warnings of marine heatwaves months in advance.

Minister for Environment Sussan Ley said the $300,000 joint research project by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, was an important step towards providing Australia's marine industries with advanced warning of extreme events which can detrimentally affect reefs, fish stocks, aquaculture production, migration patterns and biodiversity.

“Marine heatwaves are like any other extreme weather phenomena and can have a detrimental impact on Australia's economy. That is why it is important we invest in the development of practical solutions that can mitigate and manage the risks posed by our changing climate,” Minister Ley said.

"By giving advanced warning, marine industries and managers of fisheries and aquaculture would be able to take action to minimise impacts of these damaging heatwaves on their stocks and marine resources.

“It would also enhance the important conservation work being carried out on Australia's coral reefs and other marine environments which are critical to Australia's tourism industry and protection of our ocean ecosystems.

“The Australian Government is investing in world-leading, weather, climate and environmental research, and this project has the potential to deliver significant benefits to our country's marine industries and management which are estimated to double in value to $100 billion in the next decade.”

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the project draws on the strengths of our innovative scientists and researchers.

“This jointly funded initiative between CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology is another example of how science can not only help the environment, but deliver significant economic outcomes for Australia,” Minister Andrews said.

“Australia is a world-leading contributor when it comes to marine heatwave work and this exciting project will further assist our marine industries to continue to adapt.”

Marine heatwaves are typically defined as a period of five or more days in which ocean temperatures are in the top 10 per cent of recorded figures for that region. These severe ocean events have impacted ocean regions around the world and have increased in frequency, duration and intensity over the past 100 years.

The Bureau's Chief Scientist Dr Gilbert Brunet said it is important that research has a focus on delivering better outcomes for the Australian community and economy.

“This work really showcases the Bureau's motivation to create innovative solutions through scientific research that can help to better manage the future risks posed by our climate and weather patterns,” Dr Brunet said.

“This research will develop new ocean forecast tools to complement our existing ocean outlook service for Australia which informs marine managers and industries about ocean conditions up to six months into the future.”

Skilful prediction of these extreme events can assist governments, industries and communities to respond and adapt to the growing impact of marine heatwaves in a changing climate.

The research is made possible by the processing power of the Bureau's $77 million Cray XC40 supercomputer, which was funded by the Australian Government and has delivered significant improvements to services over recent years.

National Science Week is Australia’s annual celebration of science and technology. This year’s theme is Deep Blue: innovations for the future of our oceans.