Cross-shelf dynamics in a western boundary current regime: implications for upwelling

Amandine Schaeffer*, Moninya Roughan, Bradley D. Morris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


The cross-shelf dynamics up- and downstream of the separation of the South Pacific Ocean's Western Boundary Current (WBC) are studied using two years of high-resolution velocity and temperature measurements from mooring arrays. The shelf circulation is dominated by the East Australian Current (EAC) and its eddy field, with mean poleward depth-integrated magnitudes on the shelf break of 0.35 and 0.15 m s21 upand downstream of the separation point, respectively. The high cross-shelf variability is analyzed though a momentum budget, showing a dominant geostrophic balance at both locations. Among the secondary midshelf terms, the bottom stress influence is higher upstream of the separation point while the wind stress is dominant downstream. This study investigates the response of the velocity and temperature cross-shelf structure to both wind and EAC intrusions. Despite the deep water (up to 140 m), the response to a dominant along-shelf wind stress forcing is a classic two-layer Ekman structure. During weak winds, the shelf encroachment of the southward current drives an onshore Ekman flow in the bottom boundary layer. Both the bottom velocity and the resultant bottom cross-shelf temperature gradient are proportional to the magnitude of the encroaching current, with similar linear regressions up- and downstream of the WBC separation. The upwelled water is then subducted below the EAC upstream of the separation point. Such current-driven upwelling is shown to be the dominant driver of cold water uplift in the EAC-dominated region, with significant impacts expected on nutrient enrichment and thus on biological productivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1042-1059
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

Bibliographical note

Corrigendum can be found in Journal of Physical Oceanography volume 44(10), p 2812-2813,


  • bottom currents
  • boundary currents
  • momentum
  • ocean dynamics
  • upwelling/downwelling
  • wind stress


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