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Keywords:

  • sporadic upwelling;
  • upwelling index;
  • Ekman transport;
  • Leeuwin Current;
  • seasonal variability;
  • geostrophic limitation

[1] While there is no persistent upwelling along the West-Australian (WA) coastline, sporadic upwelling events have been documented primarily in summer. By analyzing comparatively the variability of both Ekman and geostrophic cross-shore transports over a seasonal cycle, we show that the situation is more contrasted. Based on a composite index computed from satellite data over a 15 year period, calibrated with well documented events, we investigate the factors influencing the development of sporadic upwelling in the region. Overall, the occurrence of transient upwelling events lasting 3–10 days varies largely in space and time. Shelf regions at 31.5 and 34°S are favored with up to 12 upwelling days per month during the austral spring/summer. Although being generally favored from September to April, sporadic upwelling events can also occur at any time of the year at certain locations north of 30°S. On average over 1995–2010, the Ningaloo region (22.5°S) cumulates the highest number of upwelling (∼140 days per year) and is characterized by longer events. The intensity of intermittent upwelling is influenced by the upwelling-favorable winds, the characteristics of the Leeuwin Current (e.g., onshore geostrophic flow, mesoscale eddies and meanders, stratification and nitracline) and the local topography. This suggests that short-living nutrient enrichment of variable magnitude may occur at any time of the year at many locations along the WA coast.