The effects of tropical cyclone characteristics on the surface wave fields in Australia's North West region

Edwin J F Drost, Ryan J. Lowe, Greg N. Ivey, Nicole L. Jones, Christine A. Péquignet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
354 Downloads (Pure)


The numerical wave model SWAN (Simulating WAves Nearshore) and historical wave buoy observations were used to investigate the response of surface wave fields to tropical cyclone (TC) wind forcing on the Australian North West Shelf (NWS). Analysis of historical wave data during TC events at a key location on the NWS showed that an average of 1.7 large TCs impacted the region each year, albeit with high variability in TC track, intensity and size, and also in the surface wave field response. An accurately modeled TC wind field resulted in a good prediction of the observed extreme wave conditions by SWAN. Results showed that the presence of strong background winds during a TC and a long TC lifetime (with large variations in translation speed) can provide additional energy input. This potentially enhances the generated swell waves and increases the spatial extent of the TC generated surface wave fields. For the TC translation speeds in this study, a positive relationship between TC translation speed and the resulting maximum significant wave height and wave field asymmetry was observed. Bottom friction across the wide NWS limited the amount of wave energy reaching the coastal region; consistently reducing wave energy in depths below 50 m, and in the case of the most extreme conditions, in depths up to 100 m that comprise much of the shelf. Nevertheless, whitecapping was still the dominant dissipation mechanism on the broader shelf region. Shelf-scale refraction had little effect on the amount of wave energy reaching the nearshore zone; however, refraction locally enhanced or reduced wave energy depending on the orientation of the isobaths with respect to the dominant wave direction during the TC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-53
Number of pages19
JournalContinental Shelf Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'The effects of tropical cyclone characteristics on the surface wave fields in Australia's North West region'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this