Some of the material in is restricted to members of the community. By logging in, you may be able to gain additional access to certain collections or items. If you have questions about access or logging in, please use the form on the Contact Page.
During an El Niño anomalous westerly winds in the central equatorial Pacific push the equatorial water eastward, raising the sea level in the eastern equatorial Pacific and lowering it in the western equatorial Pacific. In the western equatorial Pacific, this sea level signal leaks through gaps in the western equatorial Pacific boundary, lowering sea level all around the western and southern coasts of Australia. Opposite anomalies occur during La Niña when the equatorial winds are easterly. Assuming geostrophic balance and no normal flow into the boundary at interannual frequencies, we expect the sea level anomaly to be spatially constant all along the western and southern Australian coasts, but instead it is only spatially constant along the boundary north of about 22˚S. South of this latitude, in the region of the Leeuwin Current, the amplitude of the interannual signal decreases. This unexpected drop is not explained by local wind stress, bottom friction, or Bernoulli conservation of energy of the large-scale flow. Theory is developed to show how this drop in interannual sea level may be explained by energetic, high frequency, small scale Leeuwin Current eddies that interannually dissipate the El Niño sea level signal along the coast. This theory is tested with coastal sea level station measurements and along-track altimetry data from TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, and OSTM/Jason-2 satellites. The interannual variation in divergence of the eddy field momentum flux is calculated over a box along the southwest coast of Australia and found to be correlated with the interannual coastal flow through the box and the southward along-shelf sea level decay. The surprisingly short dissipation time scale is only about 2 days, much shorter than the interannual time scale. The theory is also tested off the western coast of South America where the original coastal El Niño flow was named. Interannual sea level decay along the shelf edge is observed, and the interannual southward flow along the shelf edge is found to be highly positively correlated with the along-shelf sea level decay with a dissipation time scale of a few days. Dynamics similar to the Australian case likely apply.
Australia, coastal, eddies, El Niño, interannual, South America
Date of Defense
June 18, 2012.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
Allan J. Clarke, Professor Directing Thesis; William K. Dewar, Committee Member; William Burnett, Committee Member.
Florida State University
Use and Reproduction
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s). The copyright in theses and dissertations completed at Florida State University is held by the students who author them.