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Dr Wenju Cai

Director, Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research (CSHOR)


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Dr Wenju Cai, a Chief Research Scientist, an Office of Chief Executive Science Leader at CSIRO, and Director of Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research, specialises in research into global climate variability and change. With over 25 years of research and leadership experience, his interest spans from dynamics of modes of climate variability (such as El Niño-Southern Oscillation and the Indian Ocean Dipole) and their mechanisms, to climate change detection and attribution, through to impacts of individual forcing factors of increasing carbon dioxide, increasing anthropogenic aerosols, and stratospheric ozone depletion. His sustained science achievement has had major influence on research directions of a large body of work. His service to science communities includes a contributing authorship to IPCC reports, co-Chair of World Climate Research Programme CLIVAR Pacific Panel during 2009 – 2015, a member of the CLIVAR Scientific Steering Group (2016-2018) and its co-Chair (2019-ongoing). He specialises in conceptual nonlinear frameworks for extreme El Niño and extreme La Niña, and the IOD, uncovering nonlinearity in the dynamics and impact. These have resulted in the projection of increased frequency of these extremes under greenhouse warming. Cai has elucidated the dynamics of major modes of Southern Hemisphere ocean-atmosphere variability and change, including the role of Antarctic ozone depletion, increasing CO2 and the associated ocean circulation changes. In 2020, Cai was elected as Fellow of the Australian Academy Science.

Academic Qualifications

  • 1993

    PhD Physical Oceanography
    Flinders University, Australia

  • 1986

    M Sc Physical Oceanography
    Amoy University, China PR

  • 1983

    B Sc Physics
    Amoy University, China PR

Professional Experiences

  • 2017-Present

    Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research

  • 2014-Present

    Chief Research Scientist
    CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere

  • 2014-2016

    Research Director
    CSIRO Earth System Assessment Program

  • 2011-Present

    Office of Chief Executive Science Leader

  • 2011-2014

    Theme Leader, Ocean Process
    Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Programme

  • 2008-2014

    Stream Leader, Ocean Climate Characterization and Prediction
    CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship

  • 2007-2014

    Senior Principal Research Scientist
    CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research

  • 2004-2008

    Deputy Stream Leader, Climate Applications, Prediction of Ocean and Weather
    CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship

  • 2004-2008

    Stream Leader, Climate and Water
    CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country Flagship

  • 2003-2007

    Principal Research Scientist
    CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research

  • 1997-2003

    Senior Research Scientist
    CSIRO Atmospheric Research

  • 1997-1997

    Foreign Specialist, Institute for Earth Sciences and Disaster Prevention (Feb. - March)
    Japan Meteorological Agency, Japan

  • 1994-1997

    Research Scientist
    CSIRO Atmospheric Research

  • 1993-1994

    Research Fellow, Canadian World Ocean Circulation Experiment Centre
    University of Newfoundland

  • 1990-1993

    Experimental Scientist
    CSIRO Atmospheric Research

Achievements and Awards

  • 2020-2020

    Australian Academy of Science

  • 2019-2019

    Highly Cited Researcher (< 1%)
    Clarivate Web of Science

  • 2019-2019

    Ocean Science Distinguished Lecture
    Asian Oceanic Geophysical Society

  • 2016-2016

    50th Anniversary Convocation Medal
    Flinders University, South Australia

  • 2015-2015

    China National Ocean Science and Technology Award
    China State Ocean Administration

  • 2012-2012

    Green Card Professor award (highest honour for overseas Chinese scholar)
    Ocean University of China

  • 2011-2011

    OCE Science Leader award

  • 2008-2008

    Look Out! CSIRO Strategic Excellence Award (as part of Climate Change Australia Team)

  • 2008-2008

    Best Science Communicator award

  • 2007-2007

    Nobel Peace Prize
    Contributing author to IPCC AR4 report for which IPCC was awarded the Prize

Other highlights

  • 2017-Present

    Founding Director of the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research (CSHOR), with a budget of $20m over 5 years. CSHOR is a long-term research collaboration between Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (QNLM) in China and CSIRO, together with CSHOR Australian partners, the University of New South Wales and University of Tasmania.

  • 2014-2016

    As Director, CSIRO Earth System Assessment Program, leading negotiations with Universities and the Bureau of Meteorology to secure CSIRO’s Hub leadership in Earth System and Climate Change of the National Environmental Science Programme (~$25m over five years, 2016-2021).

  • 2010-2013

    Contributing author to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, writing four sections in Chapter 14 of Working Group II.

  • 2009-Present

    As co-Chair of CLIVAR Pacific implementation panel, and member of the CLIVAR El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Research Focus, leading international research on ENSO, and a CLIVAR ENSO workshop series.

  • 2009-2015

    As co-Chair of CLIVAR Pacific implementation panel, and member of the CLIVAR Indonesian Throughflow Task team, leading and coordinating multi-national and multi-institutional Northwest Pacific Ocean Circulation and Climate experiment (NPOCE), and South Pacific Ocean Circulation and Climate Experiment (SPICE), with over $200m investment in western boundary current research.

  • 2005-2006

    Lead investigator of the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project on simulation of the Southern Hemispheric circulation in IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) models, leading to invitation by IPCC working Group 1 as a contributing author on Southern Hemisphere circulation change.