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Goa to host top scientists’ meeting on Indian Ocean




Scientists from India and the US have teamed up to strengthen their observations of the vast Indian Ocean, where the atmospheric development has a profound impact on the weather of not only India and the countries in the region, but also on America.

A team of 20 scientists from America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  are landing in Goa next week to hold a meeting with India’s leading ocean, atmosphere, and fisheries scientists to review their collaboration in this field and decide on the future course of action.

The Madden Julian Oscillation is a phenomenon in the western tropical Indian Ocean which has the most impact on weather pattern of the US, said Craig McLean, NOAA assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and acting NOAA chief scientist.

“There’s some shallow water near the Seychelles Islands. It heats up, you get evaporation and you get this storm pattern that propagates across the Indian Ocean over Indonesia, across the Pacific and then to the United States,” McLean, who is leading a high-powered US delegation to India for the meeting, said.

“In our NOAA climate prediction centre the most prominent data that they use for week two to week four forecasting is the Madden Julian Oscillation,” he said. The Madden Julian Oscillation named for Rolland Madden and Paul Julian, two scientists who discovered it in the 1970s.

The Goa meeting of Indian and American scientists would mark a decade of productive collaboration on ocean and atmospheric observations, with life-saving economic benefits for both nations, he said.

A system of buoys deployed jointly by India and the US in the Indian Ocean is at the heart of detecting the Madden-Julian Oscillation, McLean said, adding that this is also key tool for early detection of monsoon in India.

“We are in the midst of an international level of coordination, a second Indian Ocean expedition,” he said.

This is being called the International Indian Ocean Expedition Part-II.

As part of this NOAA Shop Ronald H Brown, a blue-water research vessel, is all set to arrive in Goa on Friday  which is part of the Indian Ocean expedition, where it will conduct two major research campaigns to advance ocean observing.

The first campaign will be to sample ocean and atmospheric conditions in the western Indian Ocean, which has not been sampled since 1995. This new data will help scientists better understand how environmental changes in the Indian Ocean may be contributing to sea level rise, expanding ocean dead zones and more intense monsoons in the region,

The second campaign is to launch three new moorings in the Arabian Sea as part of the Research Moored Array for African-Asian-Australian Monsoon Analysis and Prediction or RAMA. This is designed to understand the role of the Indian Ocean in driving monsoon, said Dr Sidney Thurston, who manages overseas programme development for NOAA global ocean-climate observations.

“It counts because what happens and starts to affect the Indian Ocean, which of course gives rise to the monsoon season and the rainfall of the monsoon season has about a third of the world’s population dependent upon that moisture. So it’s very important for the meteorological bureau of India to know when and all the other countries that are basically irrigated by the monsoon to be able to predict that accurately,” McClean said.

“We are sensing the ocean in order to deliver land-based weather forecasts. The more we sent the ocean and the farther back we go into this link or chain of events, the easier it is for us to be predicting more than just tomorrow’s weather, but even weeks and seasonal and even up to how, what is the next year going to be and, in some cases, even beyond that,” he said.

So the more they study the Indian Ocean, the more they have been able to increase the accuracy of weather forecasts on land in India, in China, in Indonesia, in the Pacific islands, mainland US, and even Europe.

“We are really coming to understand a global scientific undertaking. And the ability to work with our colleagues in India has been remarkably rewarding to us. We are looking forward to going over and celebrating the science that we’ve learned and also plan our future,” McClean said.

But for the first time in 22 years, the NOAA Brown has been able to make a transit in that area and make ocean measurements on what they would normally want to be doing every decade.

“So we missed the last decade because of the international security situation. The ship was able to transit through there, make the measurements. We are looking forward to hearing a report at the colloquium from the scientists, both Indian and US as to what they found, making those physical oceanographic measurements as the ship was able to transmit the area,” he said.

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