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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray
13 October 2003
Ocean forecasting information will soon be available to serve Australians in the same way atmospheric weather forecasting has delivered for on-land populations, following the announcement today of a new $15 million Australian Government initiative.
BlueLink will provide forecasts of what is happening at or near the ocean surface and in the upper two kilometres of the ocean.
Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Heritage launched the joint initiative between the Australian Government's Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and the Royal Australian Navy which has been developed over four years and involved 35 scientists and engineers.
"BlueLink will provide forecasts of the ocean similar to the land-based weather forecasting Australians have enjoyed for the past 40 years," Dr Stone said.
"Ocean charts, including shipping charts for ocean currents, eddy locations and ocean temperatures, will be similar to those generated for the weather.
"BlueLink will allow us to better monitor, predict, utilise and protect the vast marine environment surrounding Australia.
"Marine transport, Navy, fishing, oil and gas exploration activities will all be able to operate with more detailed information about their ocean environment, making them safer and more efficient.
"Predicting future ocean conditions, including specific regional knowledge of ocean currents, helps us to operate ships and fixed structures such as gas pipelines with greater surety.
"The same information is also critical for search and rescue operations as we can track damaged vessels and people lost at sea with greater accuracy."
There will also be significant benefit to the Navy with greatly enhanced support of onboard tactical response systems and potential cost savings for industries such as commercial shipping Dr Stone said.
"The East Australian Current, for example, can reach up to four knots in speed which can significantly help or hinder a shipping vessel travelling between 12 to 20 knots either with or against that current," Dr Stone said.
"These vessels typically cost $50,000 or more per day to run so significant fuel savings can be made with a better understanding of present and future ocean currents.
"Also, time gained or lost by a shipping vessel can make the difference between beating a competing vessel to a berth or sitting offshore for a day or more waiting for the berth to become free."
Dr Stone said the first four to six day forecasts, and more specific one to two day regional forecasts, are expected to be available by the end of next year.
BlueLink is a three and a half year project to develop the ocean model and analysis systems required to provide ocean forecasts. It will build on Australia's world-class meteorological weather and climate forecasting systems by extending our capability to the marine environment.
"The fact that we are in the same position today with ocean prediction as scientists were 40 years ago with atmospheric weather forecasts is due to the relative difficulty and expense of collecting data on the ocean from both satellites and buoys."
For more information on BlueLink or for examples of what ocean forecast charts will look like, please visit www.marine.csiro.au/bluelink.
Example of an ocean current and sea surface temperature map, generated from data on sea level and general ocean conditions, being developed by the Bureau of Meteorology, Royal Australian Navy and CSIRO.
Oceans charts equivalent to weather maps and similar to this view of the Tasman Sea will soon be produced for use by Government, industry and the community.
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