CSIRO Marine Research
- BSc (First Class Hons), Flinders University, South Australia (1986)
- PhD Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography and Oceanographic Engineering, (1993)
Dr Susan Wijffels is recognised for her international and national leadership in the design, implementation and exploitation of the Global Ocean Observing System.
She leads the CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship’s ocean observing system and operational modelling research. In addition, her current projects include:
- investigating variability of the Indonesian Throughflow and its role in climate (the international INSTANT project and follow-on long term monitoring via the Integrated Marine Observing System), and improving its representation in climate models
- leading Australia’s contribution to the global Argo project and co-chairing the International Argo Steering Team
- quantifying global ocean change over the past 50 years, including the anatomy and drivers of ocean warming, how changes in the earth’s hydrological cycle are expressed in large-scale changes to the ocean salinity field and if and how climate models exhibit these behaviours.
Working with colleagues at NASA, Dr Wijffels discovered and corrected small, but systematic biases discovered in 70 per cent of measurements in the global ocean observing system.
On the basis of the corrected data, a team of Australian and American climate researchers, including Dr Wijffels, calculated the world’s oceans warmed and rose at a rate 50 per cent faster in the last four decades of the 20th century than documented in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report.
She contributed to the discovery of broad-scale and rapid warming of the abyssal oceans, with implications for the planetary energy budget and rate of sea-level rise. This informs our understanding of the sea-level budget and rates of global warming, and is driving an international effort to design a more comprehensive deep-ocean observing system.