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Seminar: The global ocean wind and wave climate: How it is changing and projections for 2100 (Ian Young)

March 6 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm


The oceans are critically important to our planet. In addition to the obvious uses of oceans as a food source and biodiversity resource, oceans have a range of major influences on our planet. For instance, they have a major impact on weather and climate. They also critically influence human activity on shorter time scales. Storm waves and storm surge have major impact on coastal flooding, loss of life and damage to coastal infrastructure. Oceans also represent the world’s major source for the storage of heat and greenhouse gases. Human-induced climate change is also impacting the ocean. Ocean temperatures and acidity are increasing, and sea levels are rising. There are also a range of other potential changes which are less clear and more difficult to measure. Are storms becoming more frequent and/or more intense, are wind speeds changing, are ocean wave conditions increasing? The answers to these questions are difficult to assess. The answers are, however, important. Ocean waves control the roughness of the air-sea interface and therefore play a role in how fluxes of energy, matter and gases are exchanged between the ocean and atmosphere. Small changes in the magnitude or direction of storm waves have major impact on our coastlines, impacting beach stability and coastal erosion. Wave conditions also enhance flooding during storms. Hence changes in wave climate have a potential impact on coastal flooding.

This seminar will investigate: global ocean wind and wave climate and ocean extremes. It will describe changes in ocean winds and waves over the last 30 years and projections for future changes out to 2100. It will also look at projections for sea-level rise and the role waves play in determining coastal flooding. The results presented will use measurements from a unique dataset of more than 20 satellite missions which have been combined to produce a single long-term global database of wind speed and wave height. Model results will also be used to project future changes.


Ian Young is Kernot Professor of Engineering at the University of Melbourne. Prior to this appointment he held the administrative roles of Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University and Vice-Chancellor of Swinburne University of Technology. Prior to joining Swinburne, he was Executive Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Computer & Mathematical Sciences and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) at the University of Adelaide. His researcher interests concern wind generated ocean waves. He has an extensive publication record in areas such as: the physics of air-sea interaction, the numerical modelling of waves, finite depth waves, satellite remote sensing and ocean wind and wave climate. In recent years, he has conducted a range of studies aimed at understanding global ocean wind and wave climate. These studies use large satellite databases which he has compiled. The studies investigate seasonal wind and wave climate, extremes and long-term trends in wind speed and wave height. He has published extensively in aspects of remote sensing of the oceans with applications to both engineering design and climate. He is author of more than 150 refereed papers and two major research monographs in the field. He is also a consultant to offshore industries in Australia, the United States and Asia, as well as an advisor to the US Navy on ocean wave physics.


Australian German Climate and Energy College
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