Remote forcing of water levels by tropical cyclones in southwest Australia

Matthew Eliot, Charitha Pattiaratchi

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    33 Citations (Scopus)


    Tropical cyclones (termed hurricanes and typhoons in other regions), are extreme events associated with strong winds, torrential rain and storm surges (in coastal areas) and cause extensive damage as a result of strong winds and flooding (caused by either heavy rainfall or ocean storm surges) in the immediate area of impact. The eastern Indian Ocean, particularly in the northwest region of Australia, is impacted by up to 10 tropical cyclones during the cyclone season, although direct impact of cyclones along the west and southwest coastlines is rare. However, the sub-tidal frequency component of sea level records along the west and south coasts of Western Australia indicates lagged correspondence with the occurrence of tropical cyclones. It is demonstrated that the tropical cyclones generate a continental shelf wave which travels along the west and south coasts of Australia up to 3500 km with speeds of 450–500 km day−1 (5.2–5.8 ms−1) with maximum trough to crest wave height of 0.63 m, comparable with the mean daily tidal range in the region. The shelf wave is identified in the coastal sea level records, initially as a decrease in water level, 1–2 days after the passage of the cyclone and has a period of influence up to 10 days. Amplitude of the shelf wave was strongly affected by the path of the tropical cyclone, with cyclones travelling parallel to the west coast typically producing the most significant signal due to resonance and superposition with local forcing. Analysis of water levels from Port Hedland, Geraldton, Fremantle and Albany together with cyclone paths over a ten year period (1988–1998) indicated that the tropical cyclones paths may be classified into 6 different types based on the amplitude of the wave.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1549-1561
    JournalContinental Shelf Research
    Issue number14
    Early online date19 Jun 2010
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2010


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