Oceanic inflow from the Coral Sea into the Great Barrier Reef

Brinkman, R., Wolanski, E., Deleersnijder, E., McAllister, F., and Skirving, W. (2002) Oceanic inflow from the Coral Sea into the Great Barrier Reef. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science , 54 (4). pp. 655-668.

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View at Publisher Website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/ecss.2001.0850

Abstract

Long-term current meter data from the continental shelf region of the Great Barrier Reef show that there exists a zone of oceanic inflow onto the shelf. This oceanic inflow splits into two branches on meeting the continental shelf slope, resulting in two net longshore currents on the slope, one to the north and the other to the south of the separation point. In 1981 this separation point was located between 17°S and 18°S. This circulation was successfully predicted using a depth-averaged two-dimensional model in which the regional sea level gradient is explicitly added in the momentum equations. The resulting circulation on the continental shelf is controlled by an oceanic inflow of 0·58 Sv, spread over 500 km of the shelf edge both north and south of the separation point. The inflow appears measurably impeded by the presence of coral reefs, with >50% of the inflow occurring in a 150 km long area where reef density is small. Satellite images confirm this spatial variability. Longshore currents on the shelf generated by the inflow are modulated by the wind and tides, which can deflect the mean current away from areas of high reef density and generate localized outflows to the Coral Sea. Oceanic inflow is believed to be important because it flushes the shelf even in the absence of wind; it controls the dominant direction of across-shelf and along-shelf spread of spawn material from reefs; it makes it possible for upwelled water to spread quickly over the GBR shelf; it may also protect coral reefs by preventing river plumes from spreading onto the outer shelf.

Item ID: 4739
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: water circulation; shelf dynamics; mass transport; numerical model; East Australian Current; Great Barrier Reef; Australia
ISSN: 1096-0015
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2009 02:44
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Last 12 Months: 1
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