At a recent Scientific and Technological Awards ceremony held in Jinan to acknowledge outstanding S&T workers who made significant contribution to scientific and technological innovation and modernization of Shandong Province, Academician Professor Dunxin Hu won the top Scientific and Technological Award, the highest recognition for any individual in the catalogue, for his outstanding contribution.
Professor Dunxin Hu has been engaging in marine research for over 55 years. He pioneers many research areas in China including ocean circulation, ocean flux (carbon cycle) and land-sea interactions. He is a widely-recognized international leader in western Pacific Ocean circulation studies.
Professor Dunxin Hu has made distinguished achievement in several research areas. He discovered and named the “Mindanao Undercurrent”, which was the only commonly recognized oceanic current discovered by a Chinese scientist. He discovered the Cold Eddy in the East China Sea and started the continental shelf mesoscale eddy study in China. He found for the first time that “upwelling on the continental shelf must be accompanied by mud on the sea floor” and interpreted its dynamical mechanism. He expands the classic theory of coastal upwelling for its general application. Professor Hu also initiated and led ocean flux study on the continental shelf region, and concluded that “the East China Sea is a sink of atmospheric CO2”.
Devoted to marine science research
Professor Dunxin Hu was born in Jimo-a small city close to the Qingdao City, but he had not seen the ocean until 1956 when he went to Qingdao as a college student; he did not anticipate that he would devote a lifetime to the ocean science.
He participated in his first cruise in 1957, during which he found that he was vulnerable to severe seasickness. The small vessel he boarded was had outdated equipment, and tremored violently when encountering strong winds and waves. During the past half century, Dunxin attended numerous sea-going cruises and experienced seasickness and emesis almost every time. “It is not an invincible problem … It can be overcome if you have strong will during the first several days”, he said. One regret he has is that he was not permitted to join western Pacific cruises with R/V “Science” in the last few years because of his age. “I would love to be there on board of R/V “Science”, he told of his aspiration.
Dunxin was enrolled by the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1961 as a graduate student under the supervision of Academician Professor Hanli Mao. Professor Mao was a nice but strict supervisor, who motivated Dunxin to be diligent and to pursue excellence. Dunxin studied 12 hours a day. “I am grateful to Professor Mao for his guidance and mentoring” Dunxin said.
He has high hope for young scientists. “I won the Shandong Top Award when I am over 80 years old, but I hope that the young generations will get such awards earlier. I believe they can do it; now science infrastructure, research environment and funding opportunities are much better than before”, he said to young scientists at the conference. “We are building an innovation-oriented marine nation. Progress in science and technology is a top priority, but we should also claim our own leadership in innovation, rather than simply following others.” He is more hopeful than ever of a bright future for the young generation and the nation.
Discovery of Mindanao Undercurrent
The most fundamental achievement of Dunxin Hu is the discovery of Mindanao Undercurrent, which is the first and only ocean current discovered by a Chinese scientist, but also one of the two most important discoveries related to the western Pacific after the Equatorial Undercurrent first observed in 1950s. Hu’s discovery has challenged the traditional knowledge of the structure of the western Pacific Ocean circulations, and helped promote research into western Pacific oceanic currents from a two-dimensional framework to its three-dimensional structure.
Mindanao Island is the fourteenth largest island in the world, and the second largest island next to Luzon Island within the Philippines. Dunxin Hu and his team found that there is a northward undercurrent beneath the surface southward Mindanao Current, with a maximum speed of up to 30 cm/s and a mean transport about half of that of the Kuroshio (Kuroshio is one of the strongest ocean currents in the world ocean). They gave this undercurrent a name “the Mindanao Undercurrent”, which has been a landmark achievement of China's marine scientific research stepping from the coastal sea to the ocean.
The effort leading to the discovery of Mindanao Undercurrent was poorly resourced. Before 1980s, China's marine scientific research was limited to the coastal seas, and there were few studies into the ocean circulations and air-sea interactions of the Western Pacific. During 1979-1982, as a visiting scholar to the USA, Dunxin Hu witnessed a rapid development in marine science and technology in other countries. Through his tireless effort and that of others he worked with, a Sino-US cooperation in investigating the tropical West Pacific air-sea interactions was launched in 1985 under the framework of TOGA (Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere) International Programme. Dunxin Hu was the chief scientist of R/V “Science 1” and participated in several surveys, in collaboration with five other institutes of Chinese Academy of Sciences. During the TOGA project the Mindanao Undercurrent was discovered.
The end of the TOGA project and the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) saw a strategic adjustment by most of international communities, leading to a period of stagnation and slow-down in the investment in research of the western Pacific. However, Dunxin Hu persisted and reinvigorated the effort of scientific surveys into the western Pacific.
After years of domestic and international academic exchange, workshops and cooperation, the Northwestern Pacific Ocean Circulation and Climate Experiment (NPOCE) led by Dunxin Hu was formally endorsed in April 2010 as an international cooperative project by the CLIVAR (Climate and Ocean: Variability, Predictability and Change). NPOCE was officially launched in May 2010, which is the first large international cooperation program led by China in the field of marine research. A total of 19 institutions from 8 countries including the United States, Japan, and Korea, have participated in, with Dunxin Hu serving as Chair of the NPOCE Scientific Steering Committee.
Two sets of deep-sea moorings were successfully deployed in the western Pacific by NPOCE researchers after the launch. One mooring reached 6100 meters of the ocean, the deepest mooring in the western Pacific. It is also the first time for China, and extremely rare in the world, to obtain 4 consecutive years of observational data of the western Pacific boundary currents. During 2010-2014, the Mindanao Undercurrent, Luzon Undercurrent and North Equatorial Undercurrent have been directly observed in successive years. In 2015, Dunxin Hu and his team were invited to publish a review article in the journal Nature, which synthesizes recent progress and understanding of the western Pacific Ocean circulations and climate, and identifies future challenges and remaining scientific issues.
NPOCE has been progressing for 7 years and continues with a large number of planned activities. It is a multi-national, multi-institutional program, designed to observe, simulate, and understand the dynamics of the Northwestern Pacific Ocean circulation and its role in low-frequency modulation of regional and global climate.
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