Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi

Started at UWA: 1988

Inspired by the ocean


Oceans cover 70 per cent of our world but we know so little about them – we need to improve this knowledge because changes in our oceans will dramatically influence how we live our lives on land. Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi

Beginning his academic career at UWA more than 30 years ago, Professor Pattiaratchi researches ocean mysteries to improve the future of our seas.

He studies climate change effects in WA’s coastal regions and how it links to ocean currents, wind and wave climate, sea level variability, coastal flooding and beach stability.

Much of his research looks at analysing data to forecast ocean weather and issue warnings for tsunamis, storm surges and coral bleaching.

As part of this research, Professor Pattiaratchi was a member of the international team behind the development of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System, which was built to alert nations within the Indian Ocean region about impending tsunamis.

Over his research career, Professor Pattiaratchi has received more than $25 million in funding for his studies on coastal physical oceanography and coastal sediment transport, with an emphasis on field experiments and numerical modelling.

In recent years, Professor Pattiaratchi has been studying ocean currents to determine where the plane wreckage of flight MH370 might be. His research includes modelling the locations debris has floated to, based on the ocean’s currents and making predictions on where it is thought the plane crashed.

Another area of Professor Pattiaratchi’s research is examining underwater ocean gliders from around Australia to see how the ocean is changing. The gliders are controlled by satellites, collecting real-time data on temperature, salinity, density, chlorophyll, oxygen and suspended sediment.

Professor Pattiaratchi has supervised more than 30 PhD students and more than 100 honours students, and has been published in more than 300 journals on topics relating to coastal oceanography. These publications include in excess of 100 in peer-reviewed international journals. He also teaches the units, Environmental Engineering Design Project 1 and Environmental Systems.

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Vice-Chancellor’s inaugural senior research award for sustained career excellence, 2014

Kevin Stark Memorial Award for excellence in coastal and ocean engineering, 2011

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Rotary centennial service award for professional excellence, 2005

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Excellence in postgraduate research supervision excellence award, 2003

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Eminent Sri Lankan scientist award, 2001

Making waves with oceanography



University of Tasmania ex University of Queensland ex NCRIS

  • Develop/Enhance the Marine Virtual Laboratory (MARVL) to Provide the Information Infrastructure in Support of the National Ocean Modelling System


University of Tasmania ex National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy

  • Integrated Marine Observing System IMOS – Ocean Gliders, 2017-2019

WA Department of Transport

  • Wrack Dispersal Modelling at Jurien Bay Road Harbour


WA Department of Sport and Recreation

  • Feasibility for an Artificial Surfing Reef

University of Tasmania ex Australian Institute of Marine Science AIMS

  • eReefs Glider Missions

BMT Oceanica Pty Ltd ex Chevron

  • UWA Coastal modelling at Barrow Island


Western Australian Marine Science Institute

  • Identifying the Potential Spread of Marine Pests Through Natural Processes

WA Energy Research Alliance WAERA ex Chevron

  • Gorgon Project: Coastal Hydrodynamic and Sediment Modelling

Curtin University of Technology ex Fisheries Research & Development Corporation

  • Investigating Critical Biological Issues for Commercial Greenlip Abalone Sea Ranching in Flinders Bay Western Australia

WA Department of Transport

  • Request for Quotation: Port Geographe, Post Reconfiguration Coastal Modelling and Analysis

More grants and publications

Contact Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi