Leading scientists will use a national conference on Monday to appeal to the Turnbull government to intervene to reverse plans by the CSIRO to eliminate most of its climate roles amid claims the Prime Minister was "blindsided" by the move.
The cuts, that will cleave about 110 positions from the CSIRO's 140-odd strong Ocean and Atmosphere staff and a similar number from its Land and Water division, were announced in an email from chief executive Larry Marshall on Thursday.
Mr Turnbull and his staff "didn't see it coming", a senior CSIRO researcher has been told. The PM "blanched" when given a copy of the news of the cuts, and asked his staff to investigate, another source tells Fairfax Media.
Fairfax Media has sought comment from the PM's office.
Scientists attending Monday's start of the joint national gathering of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanic Society and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science in Melbourne are expected to call for a halt to the planned cuts which, including other divisions, will total 350 over two years.
"We strongly believe that the proposed cuts to CSIRO will seriously undermine Australia's capacity to respond to the challenges posed by climate change," the scientists say, according to a copy of the proposed statement obtained by Fairfax Media.
Scientists leading the call include David Karoly from Melbourne University, Roger Jones from Victoria University and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick from the University of NSW.
"Australia is a continent surrounded by rapidly changing weather patterns, connected to a rapidly changing global climate," the scientists' statement says.
While much has been learnt, there remain many gaps in knowledge, including monitoring changes in the Southern Ocean and how this effects global and regional climate. Another need is to track the changing chemical composition of the atmosphere, including long-term trends based on ice core data, and air quality measurements at Cape Grim in north-west Tasmania, they say.
Senator Richard Di Natale said the Greens plan to use Senate Estimates on Thursday to press Dr Marshall to explain the cuts. The Greens leader also called on the PM to intervene.
"I'd urge the PM to address the situation urgently," Senator Di Natale said. "Our climate science is absolutely critical."
He said Mr Turnbull had inherited a government under Tony Abbott that had attacked climate science, and the PM "has an opportunity to set a different course".
Dr Marshall has said there will be "no net loss" of jobs in two years' time, as other divisions expand. Critics, though, say the dismantling of decades of climate monitoring will be hard to repair and will also undermine the country's ability to participate in international exchanges in climate research.