Occurrence and seasonal variability of dense shelf water cascades along Australian continental shelves

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Abstract

Transport of water between the coast and the deeper ocean, across the continental shelf, is an important process for the distribution of biota, nutrients, suspended and dissolved material on the shelf. Presence of denser water on the inner continental shelf results in a cross-shelf density gradient that drives a gravitational circulation with offshore transport of denser water along the sea bed that is defined as Dense Shelf Water Cascade (DSWC). Analysis of field data, collected from multiple ocean glider data missions around Australia, confirmed that under a range of wind and tidal conditions, DSWC was a regular occurrence during autumn and winter months over a coastline spanning > 10,000 km. It is shown that even in the presence of relatively high wind- and tidal-induced vertical mixing, DSWCs were present due to the strength of the cross-shelf density gradient. The occurrence of DSWC around Australia is unique with continental scale forcing through air-sea fluxes that overcome local wind and tidal forcing. It is shown that DSWC acts as a conduit to transport suspended material across the continental shelf and is a critical process that influences water quality on the inner continental shelf.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9732
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Volume10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2020

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