Tropical observations of ocean and atmosphere to our far north

Observations of the daily cycles of convective storms and the mixing of heat in the atmosphere and ocean in our far northern waters.
Voyage No


19 Oct, 2019


17 Dec, 2019




Chief Scientist

Dr Susan Wijffels (Leg 1) / Dr Alain Protat (Leg 2)


Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)

Voyage summary

Research voyage to Australia's far northern waters to study the ocean and atmosphere in this region. The data collected will help improve weather and climate models. 

Accurate predictions of Australia’s regional weather and climate require accurate require accurate global models. However, some global locations are more important than others, one of these being the region known as the ‘Maritime Continent’. This area comprises the islands and seas of Indonesia, Malaysia, New Guinea, and surrounds. This voyage will form part of a larger international effort to address known issues with the Maritime Continent in existing modelling by making detailed observations of the daily cycles of convective storms and the mixing of heat in the atmosphere and ocean.

This voyage will be delivered in two legs, with a port visit in Darwin in between (on Monday 11 November). Two marine areas will be studied: the edge of the Northwest Shelf and north of the BOM operational radar at Warruwi (NT). In each area, a wide range of ocean and atmosphere data will be collected using equipment including RV Investigator weather radar, CTD, Triaxus, AIRBOX (a mobile air chemistry laboratory) and approximately 350 radiosondes (weather balloons).

The science team on this voyage includes 31 participants from 16 institutions (Leg 1) and 27 participants from 11 institutions (Leg 2).

Voyage outcomes

Researchers on this voyage collected unprecedented oceanic and atmospheric observations in Australia’s far northern waters. On the first leg of the voyage, existing models simulating the process of convection over Darwin and surrounds were confirmed to be accurate. However, in the second leg, the extensive hydrographic, atmospheric and physical readings collected, showed unexpected growth and propagation of offshore weather-related processes. Assessing shear and dissipation measurements, cyclical mixing and flux estimates, and diurnal water temperatures, provided scope to construct more accurate offshore meteorological models.

Results from the voyage will provide the fundamental scientific knowledge upon which our weather forecasting and climate models will be improved to better simulate tropical convection and ocean–atmosphere coupling. This will aid both daily forecast outlets as well as improve our ability to detect storm propagation hundreds of kilometres offshore.

Several isolated unialgal cultures and live phytoplankton specimens were also collected during the voyage. These will be studied to assess their impacts on regional biogenic emissions. The specimens will be kept in a living ‘biobank’ so that they can be used in future oceanographic studies. Many additional biological samples were collected for ongoing metagenomics investigations.