Detailing El Niño variability to enhance future forecasting

Honolulu, July 31, 2018Graphic depicting two ENSO-affecting cycles as different length pendulums
The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a recurrent climatic phenomenon of two phases—El Niño and La Niña—characterized by swings in the temperature of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean and affecting wind and rainfall patterns globally. With greater understanding of these global effects has come an increased recognition of the variability of the ENSO phenomenon and the complexities in the climatic mechanisms associated with its timing, duration, spatial pattern, predictability, and the magnitude of its impacts locally and worldwide. An international team of over forty climate scientists met last October at the Institute for Basic Science Center for Climate Physics at Pusan National University, South Korea, to discuss the current understanding of the diversity and complexity of ENSO events. They have just published a paper in Nature, under the leadership of IPRC’s Axel Timmermann, detailing their findings of two overlapping atmosphere-ocean cycles that play key roles in determining the variability of the phenomenon. Read more about the efforts here or view an excellent video explanation of El Niño and its behavior here.

IPRC researchers establish link between hiatus conditions and increased numbers of intense cyclones in northwestern Pacific Ocean

Honolulu, April 27, 2018Orbital photo of large swilring cyclone making landfall
In recent decades, there has been an unexpected increase in the intensity and frequency of strong tropical cyclones in the northwestern region of the Pacific Ocean, along the coastline of East Asia. IPRC visiting researchers Jiuwei Zhao and Ruifen Zhan, led by IPRC’s Yuqing Wang, published a study recently in Scientific Reports showing a strong correlation between conditions during the Global Warming Hiatus of 1998-2012 and the increased numbers and strengths of cyclones in the region during that period. Conditions during the Hiatus mimicked those typical of La Niño events, with sea surface temperatures and wind patterns promoting formation, intensification, and landfall of cyclones in the far northwestern Pacific Ocean. Read more details of their study in this press release or their published paper.

Low-lying Pacific Islands may become uninhabitable sooner than previously thought

Honolulu, April 25, 2018Waves wash over a flat coastal zone of Roi-Namur Atoll
A new study published today looks at island habitability in a new light and has some troubling results. It has been known for years that low-lying atoll islands are threatened by sea level rise, and previous estimates have been made suggesting that by the end of the century, sea level will be high enough that atolls will become inundated. However, this new study, with climate modeling contributions from IPRC’s H. Annamalai and Matthew Widlansky, considers the effects of wave action in addition to elevated sea levels. Projections of wave-driven flooding suggest freshwater resources on these islands will be irrevocably contaminated by mid-century (2030-2060), which, when combined with repeated damage to infrastructure, would render Pacific atolls uninhabitable. Read more details in this press release, in the published paper in Scientific Advances, or in this Honolulu Star-Advertiser story.

IPRC Marine Debris Researcher investigates a big catch!

Honolulu, February 20, 2018Sarah-Jeanne Royer perches on mound of nets washed ashore in Hawai'i.
The Marine Debris group at IPRC, led by Nikolai Maximenko, has spent years tracking the pathways of debris around the Pacific Basin and beyond. Material washes up across all the Hawaiian islands, from wooden beams and refrigerator doors to bags and microplastics, but Kamilo Point on Hawai‘i Island is known for unusually high concentrations of marine litter. Recently, the largest accumulation of fishing nets seen in the islands was found on Kamilo Beach by the Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, who relayed the sighting to Sarah-Jeanne Royer, a new post-doctoral fellow working with the IPRC Marine Debris group. At an estimated 40 tons, the pile of nets likely comes from fishing grounds in the northern North Pacific Ocean, by way of the so-called Garbage Patch at the center of the northern gyre. The find supplies a new data point for Royer’s work in the ongoing efforts to track Pacific debris pathways to show how man-made debris changes the global geography of the ocean ecosystem. Watch an interview with Royer at Hawaii News Now here.

IPRC participates in the Years of the Maritime Continent campaign

Honolulu, February 01, 2018A weather balloon is released into the beautiful Pacific sky.
IPRC Director Kelvin Richards spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year onboard the JAMSTEC research vessel the R/V Mirai. The research cruise was part of an international campaign called the Years of the Maritime Continent (YMC). The goal of the YMC is to use observations and modeling to improve understanding and prediction of the local variability, and global impact, of the Maritime weather-climate system of Earth's largest archipelago. Much the R/V Mirai cruise was spent off the coast of Sumatra observing the atmosphere and ocean. Richards’ particular interest is how the ocean responds to the changing atmosphere and possible feedbacks that might arise. Other IPRC involvement in the YMC includes the JAMSTEC IPRC Joint Initiative (JIJI) and other NOAA funded projects. Read more about the YMC and the Mirai cruise here.

Beautiful sunsets after volcanic eruptions may lend insight into historical stratospheric wind patterns

Honolulu, January 04, 2018Map of volcanic aerosol pathways blown by high elevation winds.
Large explosive volcanic eruptions are known to throw aerosols high into the atmosphere, and as high altitude winds blow them around the globe, beautiful sunsets follow, tracking the progress of the volcanic products. IPRC researchers Kevin Hamilton and Takatoshi Sakazaki took advantage of this phenomenon to explore the possibility of characterizing historic stratospheric wind patterns by compiling accounts of the timing and locations of colorful sunsets following equatorial volcanic eruptions. Ultimately, learning more about the wind patterns will contribute to understanding the historic behavior of the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO), a long-standing pattern of alternating eastward- and westward-prevailing, high-altitude equatorial winds. Read more here and read a Guardian article mentioning the work here.

IPRC researchers reach out to the community as part of Open House

Honolulu, October 19, 2017Image of Tobias Friedrich
In the past, Tobias Friedrich, an IPRC postdoctoral fellow, has created startling global simulations of how acidic the oceans may get in the future. Now, he is demonstrating those effects on a more intimate scale at the University of Hawai‘i School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) Open House on the UH Mānoa campus, taking place October 20 & 21. Watch a preview of his demo in this interview with Hawaii News Now. Also running exhibits are Jan Hafner, showing some of the marine debris that has arrived on our shores and how it got here; Niklas Schneider, describing the effects of Earth’s rotation on generating currents; and Matthew Widlansky, now with the UH Sea Level Center, demonstrating the effects of melting ice on sea level rise. Don’t miss the fun!

Destructive potential of cyclones increases with ocean warming, modelers find

Honolulu, September 22, 2017Huge Hurricane Irma swirls near Cuba and Florida
This storm season in particular has brought with it some supersized, and super-destructive, hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, raising the question in many minds of what role, if any, has climate change played in the formation and enlargement of these storms. One of IPRC’s climate modelers, Tim Li, was recently involved in a study that examined this very question: what is the impact of ocean warming on the size and destructiveness of tropical cyclones. The results of the study were not a complete surprise, but do imply that a warning about future storms in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans is warranted. Read more here.

IPRC post-doctoral researcher earns prestigious appointment from Kyoto University

Honolulu, September 18, 2017Image of Takatoshi Sakazaki
Takatoshi Sakazaki, a visiting IPRC post-doctoral researcher with a JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) fellowship, has been selected as a Hakubi Researcher through the Kyoto University Hakubi Center for Advanced Research. After extensive screening and interviewing, twelve applicants, out of 382, were chosen to receive an assistant professor position and five years of grant funding. The prestigious appointments are made from a diverse range of disciplines, this year’s group covering economics, astronomy, literature, political science, engineering, neurology, law, climatology, and more. In fact, Sakazaki and an IPRC predecessor Hiroki Tokinaga, who received a Hakubi appointment in 2014, are the only two scholars chosen from the climate/meteorology field since the program began in 2010. Sakazaki plans to continue his fellowship at IPRC until he begins his new position at Kyoto on April 1.

IPRC study contributes to picture of shifting climate conditions for Hawai‘i

Honolulu, August 16, 2017
Those living in Hawai‘i in 1992 will always remember Hurricane Iniki and the devastation it brought to Kauai, but it was only the second hurricane to make landfall (as a hurricane) in the Hawaiian Islands since records were kept. (Hurricane Dot also hit Kauai, in 1959.) Imagine, though, if instead of 2 hurricanes in 70 years directly impacting Hawai‘i, there were 4-8 hurricanes--Hawai‘i would be much more vulnerable! New projections by IPRC climate researchers Chunxi Zhang and Yuqing Wang, published recently in Journal of Climate, suggest that with warming oceans, the northern central Pacific could see an increase in the number and intensity of cyclones. Kevin Hamilton, former IPRC director, noted in a recent news story describing the shifts in Hawai‘i’s climate, that the frequency of hurricanes that could cause substantial damage to Hawai‘i could increase by 60% by the end of the century. For more details, visit the Hawaii New Now story and video, or link to the original paper here.

Analysis of Flight MH370 likely debris trajectories awarded Denny Medal

Honolulu, May 12, 2017
IPRC’s Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner are co-authors of the paper Analysis of flight MH370 potential debris trajectories using ocean observations and numerical model results, which was awarded the 2016 prestigious Denny Silver Gilt Medal by the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology for the best paper published over the course of one year in the Journal of Operational Oceanography. The first author of the paper, Joaquin A. Trinanes, received the medal at a reception of the Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology, Ship Observation Team Meeting (SOT-9) in London, UK, end of March. The paper explored the possibilities of using models, remote sensing, and in situ data for practical purposes. The presentation of the award within the scope of the SOT meeting signals the importance of efforts that bring people together in developing a sustainable and efficient ocean observation network.

IPRC modelers examine the future of snow in Hawai‘i

Honolulu, May 2, 2017
Thoughts of Hawai‘i tend to conjure images of sun-soaked beaches and waving palms, not snow. However, on the highest peaks in the state, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Hawai‘i Island, winter often generates a blanketing of snow for at least a few days a year. IPRC’s Chunxi Zhang found that despite the local aesthetic and economic value of the snow, there was viturally no systematic observations of this snow activity. With Kevin Hamilton and Yuqing Wang, he developed a new daily index of snow cover on the mountains from examination of satellite spectral imagery from 2000 to 2015. Using that data for groundtruthing, he modeled the future of Hawai‘i’s mountain snow. Read more in the press release. Read a short piece about the study in the local Hawaii Tribune Herald.

IPRC Director instrumental in arranging agreement with Tohoku University

Honolulu, April 4, 2017
Last week, Dean Brian Taylor of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and Dean Tadahiro Hayasaka of the Graduate School of Science and Faculty of Science at Tohoku University, Japan, met to sign a memorandum officially beginning a new collaborative program between the two institutions. The program, initiated by IPRC’s Director Kelvin Richards, will involve the exchange of both students and faculty from the two multi-disciplinary schools. Read more here.

Exploring ocean eddies marked IPRC’s Submesoscale mini-workshop

Honolulu, March 21, 2017
Local and visiting researchers gathered at the beginning of March for a short afternoon workshop exploring the small (1 km) to medium (100 km) scale motions (referred to as submesoscale) that characterize the stirring and mixing of the upper ocean. The international crowd hailed from IPRC, UH Department of Oceanography, IFREMER, JAMSTEC, Tohoku University, and JPL. Read more about the workshop here.

Effects of volcanic activity on ocean productivity examined by IPRC researchers

Honolulu, March 16, 2017
A recent uptick in lava activity at Kilauea has brought to the fore some recent research by IPRC’s Megumi Chikamoto and Axel Timmermann. The international project, led by Chikamoto and published last year in Geophysical Research Letters, focused on the effects of volcanic activity on the biological productivity of the upper layers of the ocean. They discovered using three separate models that large volcanic ash plumes introduced into the atmosphere may induce widespread cooling across the nearby ocean, which enhances mixing in the upper ocean. In turn, this would increase nutrient delivery to this biologically active zone, thereby enhancing biological productivity. Chikamoto’s work received a nod in an article in The Atlantic reporting on the local efforts to examine the effects of the newest gush of lava on marine life and productivity near the ocean entry of Pu‘u ‘O‘o. Read the original abstract here, or the magazine article here.

IPRC researchers turn to the upper atmosphere to explain tropical rainfall patterns

Honolulu, February 9, 2017
With the threat of changing precipitation patterns across the globe, it has become increasingly important to understand what governs the rainfall patterns we see today. A team of IPRC climate modelers, led by postdoctoral researcher Takatoshi Sakazaki, has investigated what causes a tropical rainfall abundance pattern of two distinct peaks, 12 hours apart. The results of the study, recently published online at Geophysical Research Letters, suggest that the temporal pattern is attributable to a well-known phenomenon called an “atmospheric tide.” A global pressure wave daily develops in the upper atmosphere, driven by sunlight heating of the ozone layer, and propagates downward to the land surface below. Rainfall concentrates during low-pressure periods. Read more in the press release. Sakazaki's work also got a nod in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's weather blog (scroll about half-way down). Watch an appearance of Sakazaki and co-author Kevin Hamilton on Think Tech Hawaii.

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