Tropical Cyclone-Driven Sediment Dynamics Over the Australian North West Shelf

François Dufois, Ryan J. Lowe, Paul Branson, Peter Fearns

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Abstract

Owing to their strong forcing at the air-sea interface, tropical cyclones are a major driver of hydrodynamics and sediment dynamics of continental shelves, strongly impacting marine habitats and offshore industries. Despite the North West Shelf of Australia being one of the most frequently impacted tropical cyclone regions worldwide, there is limited knowledge of how tropical cyclones influence the sediment dynamics of this shelf region, including the significance of these episodic extreme events to the normal background conditions that occur. Using an extensive 2 year data set of the in situ sediment dynamics and 14 yearlong calibrated satellite ocean-color data set, we demonstrate that alongshore propagating cyclones are responsible for simultaneously generating both strong wave-induced sediment resuspension events and significant southwestward subtidal currents. Over the 2 year study period, two particular cyclones (Iggy and Narelle) dominated the sediment fluxes resulting in a residual southwestward sediment transport over the southern part of the shelf. By analyzing results from a long-term (37 year) wind and wave hindcast, our results suggest that at least 16 tropical cyclones had a strong potential to contribute to that southwestward sediment pathway in a similar way to Iggy and Narelle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10225-10244
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Volume122
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

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