Frontal eddies along a western boundary current

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Continental Shelf Research, ISSN: 0278-4343, Vol: 165, Page: 51-59

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Joachim Ribbe; Liv Toaspern; Jörg-Olaf Wolff; Mochamad Furqon Azis Ismail
Elsevier BV
Earth and Planetary Sciences; Agricultural and Biological Sciences
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article description
Cyclonic frontal eddies are distinguishable from the surrounding water due to their unique biological and physical characteristics and have been observed in all western boundary current regions. These eddies spawn from cut-off meanders and are found on the landward side of the current. Here, we report for the first time observed frontal eddies for the intensification zone (north of 28°S) of the East Australian Current (EAC) off Southeast Queensland, Australia, by analysing remotely sensed sea surface temperature (SST) and chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) data. The frontal eddies were detected initially in the analysis of satellite tracked surface drifters. The shelf-crossing cyclonic drifter pathways indicated the presence of drifter-trapping cyclonic frontal eddies. The subsequent analysis of satellite images allows to quantify key eddy characteristics, cross-shelf volume transports associated with eddy filaments, eddy-driven shelf water renewal time scales, and export of total Chl-a and carbon per day. The observed frontal eddies have core radii of approximately 13 km and 15 km. The cold core surface SST anomaly and elevated chl-a indicates eddy entrainment of shelf water. The translational or core displacement velocity is estimated with 0.17 m s −1 or 15 km per day and the tangential velocity quantified from tracking surface drifters is 0.28 m s −1 to − 0.5 m s −1. This results in a rotational period of 1.9 days to 3.9 days. We use maximum Chl-a and SST gradients to approximate the width of importing and exporting filaments associated with the frontal eddy to derive volume transports of 1.5 Sv and 1.9 Sv (import) and 0.3 Sv and 1.8 Sv (export), respectively. Chl-a concentrations of the exporting filaments are about 0.4 mg m −3 to 0.6 mg m −3 yielding a total export of 13–78 t of Chl-a per day. The frontal eddy induced on-shelf transport of 130 km 3 –160 km 3 per day represents between 18% and 22% of the shelf volume. Therefore, it would take approximately five days to renew all shelf water. We conclude that the observed frontal eddies of the northern intensification zone of the EAC potentially play an important role in determining cross-shelf exchanges, contribute to on-shelf marine conditions, enhancing coastal primary productivity and are possibly important to the export of shelf water properties such as the fish larvae of subtropical species via entrainment.