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Andrew Wiebe, Andrew Sturman, and Hamish McGowan


The world’s tropical coral reefs are at risk of severe bleaching episodes and species decline in response to global climate variability. The ecological and economic value of reef ecosystems is enormous, yet very little is known of the physical interactions that take place at the coral–ocean–atmosphere interfaces. This paper introduces and validates a novel technique for the acquisition of surface energy balance measurements over Heron Reef, part of the Capricorn Bunker Group of the southern Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Measurements of surface energy and radiation exchanges were made using a Campbell Scientific eddy covariance (EC) measurement system mounted on a floating pontoon anchored to the reef flat. A Nortek Vector velocimeter was positioned next to the pontoon to record wave motion. Wavelet analysis techniques were used to decompose the turbulent exchange of sensible heat measured by the EC unit and to compare vertical velocity measurements with wave-induced motion recorded by the velocimeter. The results indicate that although the EC system and the velocimeter share intermittent periods of high common power in their respective wavelet variance spectra, these regions are not coherent and differ in strength by more than an order of magnitude. It was concluded that over a standard averaging period of 30 min the wave-induced motion of the pontoon would not significantly interfere with the acquisition and calculation of turbulent fluxes of sensible and latent heat, thereby confirming the robustness of this method of obtaining surface energy balance measurements over coral reefs.

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