Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Upwelling by internal tides and kelvin waves at the continental shelf break on the Great Barrier Reef

E Wolanski and GL Pickard

Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 34(1) 65 - 80
Published: 1983


A time series of 50 days duration was obtained of sea levels and winds and of temperature and currents at six depths from 27 to 104 m at 18º19'S.,147º21'E. on the continental shelf break between the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea. The sea-level signal had a predominantly mixed solar and lunar semidiurnal tidal period. The currents consisted of a semidiurnal tidal component oriented primarily cross-shelf, except near the sea floor, superimposed on a low-frequency, predominantly longshore, southward component, coherent with depth, in geostrophic balance, and modulated by the longshore wind component Large fluctuations in temperature were observed, consisting of a low-frequency component, possibly generated by internal Kelvin waves, and iiucruarions of predominantiy solar semidiurnai iidai period. The latter fiiictuations are interpreted as evidence of internal tides of amplitude up to 110 m that may be generated by the interaction of the longshore currents with topographic irregularities in the shelf. It is suggested that, during any long-term studies of water properties near the shelf break, some additional monitoring of short-term temporal variations should be carried out to avoid data aliasing by internal tides. The bottom boundary layer appears to be very active in vertical mixing. Internal tides may be very important in introducing other water components, e.g. nutrients, to the outer Great Barrier Reef.

© CSIRO 1983

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