About the theme


In this project, historical data and numerical models have been used to identify the climate sensitivity of the Kimberley coast to interannual and decadal climate variability in the Pacific and Indian Ocean over the past several decades. The project focused on the variability of ocean temperature, precipitation and salinity, sea level, and shelf current associated with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Indian Ocean Dipole, and Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

These analyses have provided the background understanding of climate change impacts on ocean temperatures, sea levels and precipitation off the Kimberley coast, to improve the predictability of climate-driven environmental variability, especially extreme events such as marine heatwaves.


  • A detailed analysis and review of influences of the past climate variability and change on ocean temperature, salinity, sea levels, and shelf current off the Kimberley coast
  • Projected future changes in the physical environment off the Kimberley coast using downscaled numerical model
  • An improved understanding of climate change impacts on key biophysical indicators such as coastal water retentions and dispersals off the Kimberley coast


  • Staged research to assess and downscale the climate impacts on the physical environment off the Kimberley coast and their impacts on marine biota.
  • Historical data and numerical model outputs were used to identify sensitivity of ocean temperature, sea level, and shelf circulation off the Kimberley coast to natural and anthropogenic climate drivers in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
  • A nested modelling approach was used to downscale future changes of the physical environment such as ocean temperature, ocean circulation off the Kimberley coast.
  • The downscaled model outputs were used to understand shelf water retention and dispersals under different forcing scenarios.


An improved understanding of climate driven influences on temperature and salinity variation across the region in response to ENSO events.


Project News

Climate swings enhance marine heatwave risk off the Kimberley coast

Giant corals reveal WA’s heatwave history

The good-news El Niño story for Western Australia’s oceans

Indian Ocean creates its own flow-on effect


Du Y, Zhang Y, Feng M, Wang T, Zhang N, Wijffels S. (2015) Decadal trends of the upper ocean salinity in the tropical Indo-Pacific since mid-1990s Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 16050 doi:10.1038/srep16050

Feng M, Zhang X, Sloyan B, Chamberlain M (2017) Contribution of the deep ocean to the centennial changes of the Indonesian Throughflow Geophys. Res. Lett., 44. DOI: 10.1002/2017GL072577.

Feng M, Benthuysen J, Zhang N, Slawinski D (October 2015) Freshening anomalies in the Indonesian throughflow and impacts on the Leeuwin Current during 2010–2011 Research Letters DOI: 10.1002/2015GL065848

Feng M, Hendon H, Xie SP, Marshall A, Schiller A, Kosaka Y, Caputi N, Pearce A. (2015) Decadal increase in Ningaloo Niño since the late 1990s. Geophysical Research Letters, 42(1), doi: 10.1002/2014GL062509.

Zhang N, Feng M, Hendon HH, Hobday AJ, Zinke J. (2017) Opposite polarities of ENSO drive distinct patterns of coral bleaching potentials in the southeast Indian Ocean. Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/s41598-017-02688-y

Zhang N, Feng M, Du Y, Lan J, Wijffels S. (2016) Seasonal and interannual variations of mixed layer salinity in the southeast tropical Indian Ocean, Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, 121, 4716-4731. doi: 10.1002/2016JC011854

Zinke J, Hoell A, Lough J, Feng M, Kuret A, CLarke H, Ricca V, Rankenburg K, McCulloch M (October 2015) Coral record of southeast Indian Ocean marine heatwaves with intensified Western Pacific temperature gradient, Nature Communications doi:10.1038/ncomms9562




Opposite polarities of ENSO drive distinct patterns of coral bleaching off WA coast (2017 WAMSI Research Conference)

WAMSI Kimberley 2.2.7 Climate Change (Parks and Wildlife Lunch and Learn session)

Climate Change Research off the Kimberley (2015 WAMSI Research Conference)


Program: Kimberley Marine Research

Location: Kimberley Coast

Theme Leader: Ming Feng, CSIRO



Final Report