The Southern Ocean in a warming world

Assessing the Southern Ocean in a warming world and its influence on New Zealand’s climate

The ocean stores and transports heat and can release that heat into the atmosphere. Changes in ocean heat dominate the global energy budget, accounting for 93 percent of global energy change since the 1970s.

Project Duration: 2015-2019

Project funding: $1m

Changes in Southern Ocean temperatures also influence weather systems reaching New Zealand, by altering the position of the southern hemisphere storm track and cyclone development. With so much energy involved, understanding how the Southern Ocean stores and transports heat is integral to understanding climate change in New Zealand.

Unfortunately, scientists don’t have enough measurements from the Southern Ocean to accurately predict how it is changing. In our project, we’re using existing oceanographic data to identify the physical processes that will have the most impact on the NZ Earth System Model (NZESM). We’re developing modelling of ocean processes, including heat storage and transport, for inclusion in the NZESM, and test the model to make sure it replicates ocean behaviour accurately.

In this way, we’re contributing to ensuring the accuracy and reliability of the NZESM, both for our region as well as globally.

Primary Contact and Principle Investigator:

  • Dr. Melissa Bowen, University of Auckland,

Melissa is a physical oceanographer who studies the physical state of the ocean (currents, temperatures, salinities) and the reasons why the ocean varies. Much of her research uses satellite observations combined with in situ observations and comparisons to mechanistic models. More information on Melissa’s work can be found here.

Project partners:

  • University of Auckland
  • NIWA
  • Scripps Institute of Oceanography (USA)
  • GEOMAR (Germany)
  • UK Met Office
  • University of New South Wales (Australia)

Latest news and updates

Deep South Challenge tackles crucial task of understanding and adapting to climate change

On Monday 4 September, Minister for Science and Innovation Paul Goldsmith will open the inaugural Deep South Challenge symposium at the Wharewaka (Wellington waterfront), about how New Zealand can and must change in line with our changing climate.

Climate Change and Mātauranga Māori

Seven kaupapa Māori climate change projects – a first for New Zealand climate research – to be celebrated at inaugural Deep South Challenge symposium

Climate Change Engagement in Aotearoa New Zealand

A new report released by the Deep South Challenge this month recommends increasing the availability of plain-language resources about climate change in both English and te reo Māori, framing scientific information for application to practical decision making, and increasing access to climate change conversations for a wider array of end-users.