The Role of the New Zealand Plateau in the Tasman Sea Circulation and Separation of the East Australian Current

Christopher Y.S. Bull*, Andrew E. Kiss, Erik van Sebille, Nicolas C. Jourdain, Matthew H. England

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


The East Australian Current (EAC) plays a major role in regional climate, circulation, and ecosystems, but predicting future changes is hampered by limited understanding of the factors controlling EAC separation. While there has been speculation that the presence of New Zealand may be important for the EAC separation, the prevailing view is that the time-mean partial separation is set by the ocean's response to gradients in the wind stress curl. This study focuses on the role of New Zealand, and the associated adjacent bathymetry, in the partial separation of the EAC and ocean circulation in the Tasman Sea. Here utilizing an eddy-permitting ocean model (NEMO), we find that the complete removal of the New Zealand plateau leads to a smaller fraction of EAC transport heading east and more heading south, with the mean separation latitude shifting >100 km southward. To examine the underlying dynamics, we remove New Zealand with two linear models: the Sverdrup/Godfrey Island Rule and NEMO in linear mode. We find that linear processes and deep bathymetry play a major role in the mean Tasman Front position, whereas nonlinear processes are crucial for the extent of the EAC retroflection. Contrary to past work, we find that meridional gradients in the basin-wide wind stress curl are not the sole factor determining the latitude of EAC separation. We suggest that the Tasman Front location is set by either the maximum meridional gradient in the wind stress curl or the northern tip of New Zealand, whichever is furthest north.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1457-1470
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number2
Early online date27 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The Role of the New Zealand Plateau in the Tasman Sea Circulation and Separation of the East Australian Current'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this