Dynamics of the summer shelf circulation and transient upwelling off Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

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    [1] The shelf circulation off Ningaloo Reef near the North West Cape of Western Australia is driven by complex interactions between the southward flowing Leeuwin Current and wind-driven currents that episodically reverse the coastal flow toward the north. The presence of these northward (equatorward) wind-driven currents is thought to make this section of coast one of the few locations along Western Australia to experience periodic coastal upwelling. We used a combination of field observations and numerical modeling to investigate the summer circulation and upwelling dynamics along Ningaloo Reef. We analyzed current and temperature profiles from moorings at four sites across the shelf and used two Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) sub-models: (1) a coarser model of northwestern Australia forced by a global ocean model and (2) a nested fine-scale model of the Ningaloo region. This nesting significantly improved model skill as it included the offshore mesoscale dynamics that strongly influenced the shelf circulation off Ningaloo. The field observations revealed several northward flow reversals, accompanied by cooling of the coastal waters adjacent to Ningaloo, which were associated with strong northward wind events. Analysis of the coastal heat budget revealed that cooling events were primarily driven by upwelling, whereas warming of coastal waters during relaxation events resulted mostly from along-shelf advection of warm water from the north. Due to the combined effects of its relatively steep (~1/50 slope) shelf and strong summer stratification, upwelled water was sourced from the interior of the water column, likely influencing the sources and fluxes of nutrients to Ningaloo Reef.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1099-1125
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research C: Oceans
    Issue number3
    Early online date11 Mar 2013
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


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