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Eric Wolanski

Abstract

A simple closed-form analytical solution of a classical coastal upwelling is found in terms of two-dimensional baroclinic waves trapped in a two-layer ocean on a steep continental slope and forced by the wind-driven reversals of currents on an adjoining wide and vertically well-mixed continental shelf. Bottom friction on the continental shelf plays a dominant role. This solution agrees qualitatively with the sparse available records of low-frequency oscillations of currents and temperature on the upper continental slope of the Great Barrier Reef.

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Eric Wolanski

Abstract

During the trade wind season, the wind over the western Coral Sea is highly coherent over very long distances (at least 1000 km). At any site, the wind direction changes little with time, while the wind speed varies with period of 7–15 days. The wind direction is westward over the Coral Sea, but northwestward (longshore) over the Australian continental shelf, probably as a result of the land-sea contrast.

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Eric Wolanski, Peter Ridd, and Masamichi Inoue

Abstract

A five-month field study of the circulation in the Torres Strait was carried out. Baroclinic effects were negligible. The Arafura Sea and the Coral Sea forced a different tide on either side of Torres Strait, resulting in fluctuations of sea level difference of up to 6 m on either side of the Strait. The tidal dynamics in the Strait were controlled by a local balance between the acceleration, the sea level slope, and the bottom friction. Only 30% of the semidiurnal tidal wave was transmitted through Torres Strait. There were also fluctuations of the high-frequency sea level residuals (up to 0.8 m peak to trough) which appeared to be related to complex flows both through the Strait and across the Strait. Low-frequency sea level fluctuations were incoherent on either side of the Strait, and resulted in fluctuations of the low-frequency sea level differences on either side of the Strait of typically 0.3 m. These sea level gradients and the local wind forcing generated low-frequency current fluctuations through the Strait. These currents were small, being ≤0.1 m s−1, because of the effect of friction which, at low-frequencies, was greatly enhanced by the nonlinear interaction between tidal and low-frequency currents. As a result, the Strait was also fairly impervious to long waves and there was only a negligible (for oceanic budget calculations) low-frequency transport through the Strait. The net current was only 0.01 m s−1 during the 5 months of observations, corresponding to a through-strait current of 10−2 sverdrups.

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