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From the top of the Range to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean for USQ climatologist

It’s a case of opposite attracts – the ocean climatologist and the university at the top of the Toowoomba range.

But as all good scientists will tell you, good location comes second to good data.

It rings true for University of Southern Queensland Professor of Climatology, Dr Joachim Ribbe, who has been developing and teaching the climate science courses at USQ since they were first offered nearly a decade ago.

“The ocean is the key driver of the climate system and it drives the atmosphere that delivers our rainfall all across Australia,” Dr Ribbe said.

“You can learn a lot by analysing data from climate models, satellite and field observations which informs our teaching, so there is really no need to live near a beach or along the coast to work in this field, you just need the data,” he said.

“Of course, it is great to be in the field and be part of a team that is collecting data and be able to appreciate the effort and cost that is associated with doing so.”

Dr Ribbe has been part of multiple ocean expeditions but in the past two years has played a role in two major excursions and international collaborations, bringing the sea to life to for his students, and his research.

“My key collaboration is with a German team from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research at the University of Kiel,” Dr Ribbe said.

“In 2018, I took part in a five-week expedition into the North Atlantic’s Labrador and Greenland Seas to further explore the nature of what’s called the global thermohaline ocean circulation. This is an important process within the climate system for regulating Earth’s climate and global temperature.

“Then at the start of this year, I participated in a large-scale international experiment referred to as EUREC4A, sponsored by the World Climate Research Program as part of its Grand Challenge on Clouds, Circulation and Climate Sensitivity.

“It took us into the tropical western Atlantic Ocean leaving for five weeks from Barbados in the Caribbean in early January and involved four large research vessels and planes from the USA, United Kingdom, Germany and France.”

The voyage was focused on investigating the interaction between the ocean and atmosphere as well as ocean processes and the function they play in the exchange of heat between the ocean and atmosphere.

“Again, these are extremely important processes that contribute to regulating and driving Earth’s climate and the generation of rainfall,” Dr Ribbe said.

“During the expeditions numerous measurements in the ocean and atmosphere were carried out, including the release of weather balloons to observe the state of the atmosphere with data submitted to the world weather watch program.

“The work undertaken during both voyages is helping scientists the world over to better understand the role of the ocean in driving Earth’s climate and its variability.”

man in front of iceberg
University of Southern Queensland Professor of Climatology, Dr Joachim Ribbe has been developing and teaching the climate science courses at USQ since they were first offered nearly a decade ago.