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Frontal systems on the Australian north-west shelf

Chari Pattiaratchi

12 June, 2018

Ocean fronts, defined as regions of large horizontal gradients in water properties (temperature, salinity etc), are areas of high productivity globally. Recent satellite imagery from the north-west shelf indicates the existence of two types of fronts extending over 1000km from North-West Cape to Cape Leveque. The nearshore band of high chlorophyl is associated with a very cold band of water at the coast  that usually develops every May, persists throughout winter, and is evident in the SSTAARS climatology. Water in shallow coastal regions become more saline over summer due to evaporation and with winter cooling the water becomes much denser than water further offshore. This cool, dense water then flows offshore along the bottom as a dense shelf water cascade which has been observed by ocean glider deployments in the region and other regions of Australia. [more]