Recent Progress in Physical Oceanography in Japan

-ENSO, Decadal Variability, the Kuroshio and Argo- Progress of Black Hole Astronomy



Kimio Hanawa

Professor, Department of Geophysics

Tohoku University


Since the early 1990s, Japanese physical oceanographers have participated in several big internationally coordinated projects such as TOGE, WOCE, GODAE and Argo, as well as several projects domestically promoted based on their own motivations of the Japanese researchers. Through these experiences, Japanese physical oceanographers have had basin-scale and global-scale viewpoints compared with the former ones. That is, in the previous era, most of Japanese physical oceanographers' focus was towards various phenomena of the Japanese coastal areas.

In this lecture, I would like to introduce several aspects of recent progress in physical oceanography in Japan.

Since ENSO (El Nino/Southern Oscillation) events can markedly affect the Japanese climate, monitoring the tropical ocean, clarifying ENSO mechanism and predicting the event are one of central themes for Japanese researchers. In order to accomplish these purposes, TRITON buoys have been deployed, diagnostic studies have been made and numerical models have been developed.

Another target of Japanese researchers is the so-called decadal variabilities in climate, or PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation). Numerous diagnostic studies have been done, and the important role of the ocean in this phenomenon has been discovered. In order to support these studies of ENSO and decadal variabilities, the Japanese Argo project has been initiated since 2000. This project is in progress with close connection with the international Argo project.

TOPEX/POSEIDON altimeter was launched in August 1992 and has provided accurate sea surface height data since then. This satellite has given a huge impact on physical oceanography in various aspects and globally. Due to the contribution of this satellite, Japanese researchers are credited with findings such as the interaction between mesoscale eddies and the Kuroshio, and occurrence of the Kuroshio small meander.




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