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Seasonal characteristics of the near-surface circulation in the northern South China Sea obtained from satellite-tracked drifters

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Abstract

The surface circulation of northern South China Sea (hereafter SCS) for the period 1987–2005 was studied using the data of more than 500 satellite-tracked drifters and wind data from QuikSCAT. The mean flow directions in the northern SCS except the Luzon Strait (hereafter LS) during the periods October~March was southwestward, and April~September northeastward. A strong northwestward intrusion of the Kuroshio through the LS appears during the October~March period of northeasterly wind, but the intrusion became weak between April and September. When the strong intrusion occurred, the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) in the LS was 388 cm2/s2 which was almost 2 times higher than that during the weak-intrusion season. The volume transport of the Kuroshio in the east of the Philippines shows an inverse relationship to that of the LS. There is a six-month phase shift between the two seasonal phenomena. The volume transport in the east of the Philippines shows its peak sis-month earlier faster than that of the LS. The strong Kuroshio intrusion is found to be also related to the seasonal variation of the wind stress curl generated by the northeasterly wind. The negative wind stress curl in the northern part of LS induces an anticyclonic flow, while the positive wind stress curl in the southern part of LS induces a cyclonic flow. The northwestward Kuroshio intrusion in the northern part of LS happened with larger negative wind stress curl, while the westward intrusion along 20.5°N in the center of the LS occurred with weaker negative wind stress curl.

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Correspondence to Gill Yong Park or Im Sang Oh.

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Park, G.Y., Oh, I.S. Seasonal characteristics of the near-surface circulation in the northern South China Sea obtained from satellite-tracked drifters. Ocean Sci. J. 42, 89–102 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03020877

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Key words

  • South China Sea
  • Drifter
  • Kuroshio Intrusion
  • Northeasterly and Southwesterly Wind