The Australian coast can be subdivided into three broad sedimentary provinces occupying the east, south, west, and northwest coasts. The 11,978-km long eastern province extends from the western Gulf of Carpentaria along the entire east coast to eastern Tasmania. It is characterized by tropical to temperate humid climates, quartz sediments, and overall northerly sediment transport, with significant onshore transport where shoreline orientation and wave and wind energy combine to produce massive coastal dune systems, including the world's largest sand islands. The 9587-km long south and west coast province has an arid to semiarid climate with little terrigenous sediment. Much of the coast faces into the prevailing southerly winds and the high year-round Southern Ocean swell, resulting in massive transfer of shelf and nearshore carbonate-rich sediments to the shore and into extensive coastal barrier-dunes systems, the largest dunes extending 110 km inland. The 9106-km long northwest province has a tropical arid to monsoonal climate with coral reefs fringing parts of the coast and has predominately offshore winds. While several large rivers deliver substantial terrigenous sediment to the coast, little is deposited above sea level.
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Vol. 2010 • No. 263