The effect of the Leeuwin current on offshore surface gravity waves in southwest Western Australia

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    The knowledge of regional wave regimes is critical for coastal zone planning, protection, and management. In this study, the influence of the offshore current regime on surface gravity waves on the southwest Western Australian (SWWA) continental shelf was examined. This was achieved by coupling the three dimensional, free surface, terrain-following hydrodynamic Regional Ocean Modelling System (ROMS) and the third generation wave model Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN) using the Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere-WaveSediment Transport (COAWST) model. Different representative states of the Leeuwin Current (LC), a strong pole-ward flowing boundary current with a persistent eddy field along the SWWA shelf edge were simulated and used to investigate their influence on different large wave events. The coupled wave-current simulations were compared to wave only simulations, which represented scenarios in the absence of a background current field. Results showed that the LC and the eddy field significantly impact SWWA waves. Significant wave heights increased (decreased) when currents were opposing (aligning with) the incoming wave directions. During a fully developed LC system significant wave heights were altered by up to ±25% and wave directions by up to ±20°. The change in wave direction indicates that the LC may modify nearshore wave dynamics and consequently alter sediment patterns. Operational regional wave forecasts and hindcasts may give flawed predictions if wave-current interaction is not properly accounted for.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)9047-9067
    Number of pages21
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


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