Seasonal variability of the isopycnal surface circulation in the South China Sea derived from a variable-grid global ocean circulation model

Research paper by Zexun Wei, Guohong Fang, Tengfei Xu, Yonggang Wang, Zhan Lian

Indexed on: 06 Jan '16Published on: 06 Jan '16Published in: Acta Oceanologica Sinica


In this study, we develop a variable-grid global ocean general circulation model (OGCM) with a fine grid (1/6)° covering the area from 20°S–50°N and from 99°–150°E, and use the model to investigate the isopycnal surface circulation in the South China Sea (SCS). The simulated results show four layer structures in vertical: the surface and subsurface circulation of the SCS are characterized by the monsoon driven circulation, with basin-scaled cyclonic gyre in winter and anti-cyclonic gyre in summer. The intermediate layer circulation is opposite to the upper layer, showing anti-cyclonic gyre in winter but cyclonic gyre in summer. The circulation in the deep layer is much weaker in spring and summer, with the maximum velocity speed below 0.6 cm/s. In fall and winter, the SCS deep layer circulation shows strong east boundary current along the west coast of Philippine with the velocity speed at 1.5 m/s, which flows southward in fall and northward in winter. The results have also revealed a fourlayer vertical structure of water exchange through the Luzon Strait. The dynamics of the intermediate and deep circulation are attributed to the monsoon driving and the Luzon Strait transport forcing.