On the East Australian Current: variability, encroachment, and upwelling

Moninya Roughan*, Jason H. Middleton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


Observations from an intensive oceanographic field program which took place in 1998-1999 about the separation point of the East Australian Current (EAC) show significant spatial and temporal variability of the EAC. Upstream of the separation point, southward flowing currents are strong, with subinertial velocities of up to 130 cm s-1 in the near-surface waters, whereas downstream currents are highly variable in both strength (1-70 cm s-1) and direction. Upwelling is observed to occur through both wind-driven and current-driven processes, with wind effects playing a lesser role. By contrast, the encroachment of the EAC upon the coast has a profound effect on the coastal waters, accelerating the southward (alongshore) currents and decreasing the temperature in the bottom boundary layer (BBL) by up to 5°C. As the axis of the jet moves onshore, negative vorticity increases in association with an increase in nonlinear acceleration. During this time, bottom friction is increased, the Burger number is reduced, and the BBL shut-down time lengthens. The observed upwelling is attributed to enhanced onshore Ekman pumping through the BBL resulting from increased bottom stress as the southerly flow accelerates when the EAC encroaches across the continental shelf.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberC07003
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue numberC7
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • current-driven upwelling
  • Western Boundary Current
  • Smoky cape


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