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East Australian Current


Ridgeway, K and Hill, K, East Australian Current, Marine Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Report Card for Australia 2012, CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship 2012, ES Poloczanska, AJ Hobday and AJ Richardson (ed), Hobart, pp. 47-59. ISBN 978-0-643-10928-5 (2012) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2012 CSIRO

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The East Australian Current (EAC) is a complex and highly energetic western boundary system in the south-western Pacific off eastern Australia. The EAC forms part of the western boundary of the South Pacific Gyre and the linking element between the Pacific and Indian Ocean gyres.

The EAC is similar to other western boundary currents and is dominated by a series of mesoscale eddies which produce highly variable patterns of current strength and direction. Seasonal, interannual and particularly strong decadal changes are observed in the EAC which tend to mask the underlying long-term trends related to greenhouse gas (GHG) forcing.

Observations from a long-term coastal station off Tasmania show that the EAC has strengthened and extended further southward over the past 60 years. The south Tasman Sea region has become both warmer and saltier with mean trends of 2.28°C/century and 0.34 psu/century over the 1944-2002 period which corresponds to a poleward advance of the EAC Extension in the order of 350 km.

The observed intensification of the EAC flow past Tasmania is driven by a spin-up and southward shift of the Southern Hemisphere subtropical ocean circulation. Changes in the gyre strength are, in turn, linked to changes in wind stress curl over a broad region of the South Pacific. The oceanic changes are forced by an intensification of the wind stress curl arising from a poleward shift in the circumpolar westerly winds associated with recent trends in the Southern Annular Mode (SAM).

Observational and modelling studies indicate that these changes in the wind patterns are at least in part attributable to stratospheric ozone depletion over the past decades. However, at least some of the trend is likely to be forced by increases in atmospheric CO2. Climate models forced with observed CO2 emissions also produce an upward trend of the SAM and, as a consequence, an intensification of the Southern Hemisphere gyre system.

Climate model simulations strongly suggest that trends observed over the past 50 years will continue and accelerate over the next 100 years.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:El Nino - Southern Oscillation, adaptation, marine impacts, climate variability, climate change
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Biological oceanography
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Adaptation to climate change
Objective Field:Climate change adaptation measures (excl. ecosystem)
UTAS Author:Hill, K (Dr Katy Hill)
ID Code:84614
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2013-05-22
Last Modified:2014-08-11
Downloads:1 View Download Statistics

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