Sensitivity study of the seasonal mean circulation in the northern South China Sea

Research paper by Bo Hong, Dongxiao Wang

Indexed on: 27 Sep '08Published on: 27 Sep '08Published in: Advances in Atmospheric Sciences


A study of the circulation in the northern South China Sea (SCS) is carried out with the aid of a three-dimensional, high-resolution regional ocean model. One control and two sensitivity experiments are performed to qualitatively investigate the effects of surface wind forcing, Kuroshio intrusion, and bottom topographic influence on the circulation in the northern SCS. The model results show that a branch of the Kuroshio in the upper layer can intrude into the SCS and have direct influence on the circulation over the continental shelf break in the northern SCS. There are strong southward pressure gradients along a zonal belt largely seaward of the continental slope. The pressure gradients are opposite in the southern and northern parts of the Luzon Strait, indicating inflow and outflow through the strait, respectively. The sensitivity experiments suggest that the Kuroshio intrusion is responsible for generating the imposed pressure head along the shelf break and has no obvious seasonal variations. The lateral forcing through the Luzon Strait and Taiwan Strait can induce the southwestward slope current and the northeastward SCS Warm Current in the northern SCS. Without the lateral forcing, there is no high-pressure-gradient zonal belt seaward of the continental slope. The wind forcing mainly causes the seasonal variation of the circulation in the SCS. The wind-induced water pile-up results in the southward high pressure gradient along the northwestern boundary of the basin. Without the blocking of the plateau around Dongsha Islands, the intruded Kuroshio tends to extend northwest and the SCS branch of the Kuroshio becomes wider and stronger. The analyses presented here are qualitative in nature but should lead to a better understanding of the oceanic responses in the northern SCS to these external influence factors.