As an island continent, Australia’s climate, environment, economy and communities are strongly influenced by the surrounding oceans. The Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) provides infrastructure needed by researchers to observe, understand and predict Australia’s oceans. The Bluewater and Climate Node takes responsibility for articulating the science needs and observing system design driving IMOS investment in the open ocean, beyond the coastal and shelf seas that are the domain of the regional nodes. The open ocean domain of relevance to IMOS extends from the tropics to Antarctica and from the central Indian Ocean to the central Pacific Ocean.
Observations from the open ocean are essential for improving understanding of the ocean’s role in climate and for tracking the evolution of climate change on decadal time-scales. Australia’s highly variable climate is sensitive to conditions in the surrounding oceans and measurements of the open ocean provide the primary source of information used to anticipate floods and droughts associated with climate modes like El Niño and the Indian Ocean Dipole. Bluewater observations are also critical for ocean prediction on time-scales of days to weeks. Continental shelf and coastal waters are strongly influenced by offshore conditions and open ocean observations are therefore also needed to support the regional nodes of IMOS.
The Bluewater and Climate Node research community includes Australian scientists tackling a wide range of issues of direct relevance to the nation, including: climate change and its impacts; sea-level rise; changes in the global water cycle; seasonal to interannual climate variability; ocean carbon uptake and acidification; biodiversity; and management of marine resources and ecosystems. The Bluewater and Climate Node is also closely integrated with national and international research efforts; in particular, the open ocean observations collected by IMOS are the primary data streams used by Australia’s climate and ocean circulation research communities.