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Revisiting the circulation of the East Australian Current: its path, separation, and eddy field

Oke, PR, Roughan, M, Cetina-Heredia, P, Pilo, G ORCID: 0000-0002-8590-8645, Ridgway, KR, Rykova, T, Archer, MR, Coleman, RC ORCID: 0000-0002-9731-7498, Kerry, CG, Rocha, C, Schaeffer, A and Vitarelli, E 2019 , 'Revisiting the circulation of the East Australian Current: its path, separation, and eddy field' , Progress in Oceanography, vol. 176 , pp. 1-20 , doi: 10.1016/j.pocean.2019.102139.

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The traditional view of the East Australian Current (EAC), as depicted in many schematics, is of a continuous boundary current that flows along the shelf off eastern Australia, between approximately 18°S and about 32.5°S, where it separates from the coast and continues either towards New Zealand, along the Tasman Front; or towards Tasmania, as the EAC Extension. Additionally, it is widely recognised that eddies are prevalent in the EAC region – particularly south of the EAC separation. We revisit this long-standing paradigm and suggest that the EAC is perhaps better viewed as a continuous, meandering stream, flowing adjacent to the coast that “feeds” a field of mesoscale eddies. Observations show that EAC eddies are prevalent over a broad region of the western Tasman Sea, as far north as 25°S, typically with maximum intensity between 30 and 35°S. At any instant in time the EAC jet is usually evident as a poleward stream adjacent to the continental shelf edge. Other commonly accepted components of the EAC System, including the Tasman Front and EAC Extension, are rarely seen as distinct, identifiable features. Rather, these features are evident only in time-mean fields, when the eddy-variability is filtered out. It is also common for the EAC to be spatially discontinuous – due to the presence of eddies – often with multiple short streams that sometimes separate and re-attach to the coast. Recognition of the EAC as an eddy-dominated current system has seen many recent studies focus on various aspects of eddies in the EAC System, providing new insights into mesoscale ocean dynamics. Recent studies of individual eddies have shown that the circulation within eddies, including tilting and vertical motion, is more complex than previously understood. A summary of these studies, along with a review of the EAC System, particularly its path, separation, and eddy field is presented here.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Oke, PR and Roughan, M and Cetina-Heredia, P and Pilo, G and Ridgway, KR and Rykova, T and Archer, MR and Coleman, RC and Kerry, CG and Rocha, C and Schaeffer, A and Vitarelli, E
Keywords: East Australian Current, ocean circulation, ocean eddies, western boundary currents
Journal or Publication Title: Progress in Oceanography
Publisher: Pergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd
ISSN: 0079-6611
DOI / ID Number: 10.1016/j.pocean.2019.102139
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© 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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