China Leads International Effort To Study Pacific Ocean


BEIJING] A project initiated by China aims to help countries around the western Pacific rim improve their climate predictions.

The Northwestern Pacific Ocean Circulation and Climate Experiment (NPOCE), launched in Qingdao, China, comprises 19 institutions from eight countries and aims to boost scientific understanding of the Ocean.

The goal of NPOCE, said Hu Dunxin, chairman of the NPOCE scientific steering committee, and aprofessor at the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), is to improve the understanding of the northwestern Pacific Ocean’s role in regional and global climate variations — such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) — through field experiments, simulations and theoretical study.

“[NPOCE] is trying to get a more accurate description of the three-dimensional structure of ocean circulation and a good understanding of its role in the warm pool variability, monsoon and ENSO modulation, and hence regional and global climate change,” Hu told SciDev.Net.

“Countries in the western Pacific Rim will benefit from the NPOCE achievements to improve climate prediction,” Hu said. “For example, the warm pool [an area of warm water in the region] change could have significant effects on summer rainfall resulting in floods or droughts in eastern China.”

The project is endorsed by Climate Variability and Predictability, part of the World Climate Research Programme, as an international cooperative programme.

NPOCE is the second programme on ocean circulation and climate study in the western Pacific Ocean. The other is the Southwest Pacific International Circulation and Climate Experiment, jointly carried out by Australia, France and the United States. Hu said that the two projects will coordinate field experiments in the future.

In China there are already a couple of national-level NPOCE-related projects under the sponsorship of the National Natural Science Foundation and the Ministry of Science and Technology, with a total spending of 100 million Chinese yuan (US$14.6 million). Scientists from other participating countries will use their own funds for the programme.

“The Western Pacific significantly influences the Asian monsoon, especially the rain-band in China. But there has not been enough work in this field before and NPOCE can help improve our understanding about that region,” Fu Congbin, professor at CAS’s Institute of Atmospheric Physics, told SciDev.Net.

The countries involved in NPOCE, which was launched last month (30 May), are Australia, China, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Philippines and the United States.