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ENSO to multi-decadal time scale changes in East Australian Current transports and Fort Denison sea level: Oceanic Rossby waves as the connecting mechanism

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 05:41 authored by Neil HolbrookNeil Holbrook, Goodwin, ID, McGregor, S, Molina, E, Power, SB
The connection between East Australian Current (EAC) transport variability and Australia’s east coast sea level has received little treatment in the literature. This is due in part to the complex interacting physical processes operating in the coastal zone combined with the sparsity of observations available to improve our understanding of these possible connections. This study demonstrates a statistically significant (at the 490% level) relationship between interannual to decadal time scale variations in observed estimates of the EAC transport changes and east coast sea level measured at the high-quality, long record Fort Denison tide-gauge in Sydney Harbour, Australia (3315101800S, 15111303200E). We further demonstrate, using a linear reduced-gravity ocean model, that ENSO to decadal time-scale variations and the ocean-adjusted multi-decadal trend (approx. 1 cm/decade) in observed sea level at Fort Denison are strongly connected to modulations of EAC transports by incoming westward propagating oceanic Rossby waves. We show that EAC transport and Fort Denison sea level vary in a manner expected from both Tasman Sea generated Rossby waves, which account for the interannual and multi-annual variability, and remotely forced (from east of New Zealand) Rossby wave connections through the mid-latitudes, accounting for the ocean-adjusted multi-decadal trend observed at the New South Wales coast – with the regional-Tasman Sea forcing explaining the greatest overall proportion of EAC transport and sea-level variances.


Publication title

Deep-Sea Research. Part 2: Topical Studies in Oceanography










School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


Pergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd

Place of publication

The Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, England, Ox5 1Gb

Rights statement

The definitive version is available at

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems

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