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Marine heatwave early warning system for aquaculture industry

Australia’s $3 billion fisheries and aquaculture industries will receive up to six months’ warning of damaging marine heatwaves under a national forecasting system developed by the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology.

The sea surface temperature around Australia has warmed by about 1 degree since 1910, according to the bureau, with eight of the 10 warmest years on record occurring since 2010.

The modelling for the system, which is powered by the Commonwealth's $77 million Cray XC40 super-computer, can show which locations are most at risk of heatwaves and pinpoint the most advantageous farm sites.

The modelling for the system, which is powered by the Commonwealth’s $77 million Cray XC40 super-computer, can show which locations are most at risk of heatwaves and pinpoint the most advantageous farm sites.

The warming trend has increased the rate of marine heatwaves – when the sea surface temperature sits in the upper band of historical averages for at least five days. Marine heatwaves can stress fish, damaging the output of fish farms by reducing yield, quality and spreading disease. They are also a chief cause of coral bleaching, which is a major threat to coral ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef.

“By giving advanced warning, marine industries and managers of fisheries and aquaculture would be able to take action to minimise impacts of these damaging heatwaves on their stocks and marine resources,” said federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, whose department funded the $300,000 project.

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