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AIMS researchers step aboard international ocean observatory

AIMS researchers step aboard international ocean observatory


AIMS researchers, ship crew and officials with the NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown in Darwin. Image courtesy of U.S. Consulate General Melbourne.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science met with members of the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) when their ship docked in Darwin yesterday.

The two research bodies have a close relationship of more than 30 years under a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on areas of common interest.

AIMS’ Northern Territory science leader Dr Edward Butler said AIMS scientists were using information on large-scale ocean changes, such as that delivered by NOAA, to better understand the local implications of a warming ocean.

“It was great to be able to meet the team on board their ship Ronald H. Brown, during its visit to Darwin,” Dr Butler said.

“AIMS plays a part in adding to the global picture of the state of the world’s oceans to monitor how major ocean currents in this region influence Australia’s marine estate.”

The US-based oceanographic and atmospheric research vessel has been conducting marine observation science in the Indian Ocean, to better understand the Indian Ocean's role in global cycles and monsoon prediction.

Dr Butler said upper ocean temperatures had warmed significantly in most regions of the world over recent decades.

“Large scale ocean observation is a focus for NOAA, which is part of a co-ordinated international ocean observing program, to which Australia also contributes,” he said.

“Our researchers deploy ocean sensors across Northern Australia to measure coastal sea temperatures to better understand how local changes in sea temperatures impact coastal conditions and ecosystems and our work is supported by the broader research being undertaken by NOAA.”

These Integrated Marine Observing Systems (IMOS), play a part in adding to the global picture of the state of the world’s ocean and how it is changing.

IMOS observations span Australia’s marine estate, from the Southern Ocean to the tropics, and together with IMOS, AIMS has a large part to play in observing the Arafura and Timor seas to the north of Australia.

“Using our research vessel Solander, AIMS is responsible for maintaining ocean observations that monitor how major ocean currents in the region influence the Australian region,” Dr Butler said. 

Dr Butler said marine species were often more strongly impacted by environmental extremes than by slow changes in mean conditions.

In a warming climate some of the most dramatic ecosystem changes have been associated with extreme heatwaves. AIMS and NOAA are collaborating on a coastal mooring observations whitepaper which aims to improve co-ordination of regional and national efforts to better observe the world’s oceans.