Building the Holocene clinothem in the Gulf of Papua: An ocean circulation study



[1] This paper investigates the role that tidal and wind-driven flows and buoyant river plumes play in the development of the Holocene clinothem in the Gulf of Papua. Time series data from bottom tripods and a mooring were obtained at four locations near the mouth of the Fly River during portions of 2003 and 2004. Flows in the Gulf of Papua during calendar year 2003 were hindcast every 3 h using the Navy Coastal Ocean Model (NCOM) with boundary conditions from the Navy Atmospheric Prediction System, the east Asian seas implementation of NCOM, and the OTIS Tidal Inversion System. Results show that tidal flows on the modern clinoform are strong and are landward and seaward directed. Peak spring tidal velocities can provide the shear stresses necessary to keep sediment up to sand size in motion as the wind-driven and baroclinic currents distribute it from the river mouths across and along the shelf in two circulation states. During the monsoon season, the clinoform topset is swept by a seaward surface flow and landward bottom flow, reflecting river plumes and coastal upwelling. Seaward, this structure evolves into a SW directed surface current over the clinothem foreset with accompanying landward directed near-bed currents that trend obliquely up the foreset to the WSW over much of the clinothem. During the trade wind season, the inner and outer topset are swept by NE directed, contour-parallel surface currents, underneath which lie obliquely landward near-bed currents. These modeled flows and complex gyres in shallow water coupled with wave- and current-supported gravity flows or river floods can explain the form, internal clinoform shapes, and mineralogy of the modern Gulf of Papua clinothem.