Geophysical Research Letters

Bottom boundary layer flow and salt injection from the continental shelf to slope



[1] Austral winter oceanographic measurements from the northwest Australian continental shelf reveal salty water forming evaporatively inshore, moving across the wide shelf near the bottom and into the adjacent open ocean when the shelf edge alongshore flow is equatorward. The salt tongue is absent during more normal conditions, when the poleward Leeuwin Current is present. We hypothesize that the flow reversal enables shelf-wide bottom boundary layer (Ekman) transport and thus creates the shelf-edge convergence that accounts for the observed salt tongue. This flow is absent under sustained normal conditions because of buoyancy arrest in the bottom boundary layer.