Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

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

  • 138 Accesses

  • 4 Citations


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Caruso, M.J., G. G. Gawarkiewicz, and R.C. Beardsley. 2006. Interannual Variability of the Kuroshio Intrusion in the South China Sea.J. Oceanogr.,62, 559–575.

  2. Centurioni, L.R., P.P. Niiler, and D.K. Lee. 2003. Observations of Inflow of Philippine Sea Surface Water into the South China Sea through the Luzon Strait.J. Phys. Oceanogr.,34, 113- 121.

  3. Chern, C.S. and J. Wang. 2003, Numerical Study of the UpperLayer Circulation in the South China Sea.J. Oceanogr.,59, 11- 24.

  4. Chu, P.C., Y. Chen, and S. Lu. 1998. Wind-Driven South China Sea Deep Basin Warm-Core/Cool-Core Eddies.J. Phys. Oceanogr.,54(4), 347–360.

  5. Farris, A. and M. Wimbush. 1996. Wind-Induced Kuroshio Intrusion into the South China Sea.J. Oceanogr.,52, 771- 784.

  6. Hansen, D.V. and A. Herman. 1989. Temporal sampling requirements for surface drifter buoys in the tropical Pacific.J. Atmos. Oceanic. Tech.,6, 599–607.

  7. Large, W.G. and S. Pond. 1981. Open Ocean Momentum Flux Measurements in Moderate to Strong Winds.J. Phys. Oceanogr.,11, 324–336.

  8. Patterson, S. L. 1985. Surface Circulation and Kinetic Energy Distribution in the Southern Hemisphere Oceans from Fgge Drifting Buoys.J. Phys. Oceanogr.,15, 865–884.

  9. Qiu, B. and R. Lukas. 1996. Seasonal and interannual variability of the North Equatorial Current, the Mindanao Current, and the Kuroshio along the Pacific western boundary.J. Phys. Res.,101(C5), 12315–12330.

  10. Park, G. 2007. Near-surface circulation in the northern South China Sea obtained from satellite-tracked drifters. M.S. thesis, Seoul National University. 52p.

  11. Qu, T. and R. Lukas. 2003. The Bifurcation of the North Equatorial Current in the Pacific.J. Phys. Oceanogr.,33, 5–18.

  12. Qu, T., H. Mitsudera, and T. Yagamata. 2000. Intrusion of the North Pacific into the South China Sea.J. Phys. Oceanogr.,105(C3), 6415–6424.

  13. Shaw, P.T. and S.Y. Chao. 1994. Surface Circulation in the South China Sea.Deep-Sea Res.,41(11/12), 1663–1683.

  14. Wang, W. and R.X. Huang. 2004. Wind Energy input to the Ekman Layer.J. Phys. Oceanogr.,34, 1267–1275.

  15. Xue, H., F. Chai, N. Pettigrew, D. Xu, M. Shi, and J. Xu. 2004. Kuroshio intrusion and the circulation in the South China Sea.J. Phys. Res.,109, Co2017. doi:10.1029/2002JC001724.

  16. Yaremchuk, M. and T. Qu. 2003. Seasonal Variability of the Large-Scale Currents near the Coast of the Philippine.J. Phys. Oceanogr.,34, 844–855.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Gill Yong Park or Im Sang Oh.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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

Download citation

Key words

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