Surface inflow into the South China Sea through the Luzon Strait in winter

Research paper by Jingsong Guo, Xianyao Chen, Janet Sprintall, Binghuo Guo, Fangli Qiao, Yeli Yuan

Indexed on: 15 Nov '12Published on: 15 Nov '12Published in: Chinese Journal of Oceanology and Limnology


We studied the driving force of the Kuroshio intrusion into the South China Sea (SCS) during the winter monsoon, using satellite-tracked drifters entering the Luzon Strait (LS) through the Balintany and Babuyan Channels from the Philippine Sea. Most drifters passing through the Babuyan Channel in winter entered the interior SCS without a significant change in velocity. However, half of the drifters passing through the Balintany Channel entered the SCS at ∼30 cm/s, which was faster than when they entered the LS. The other half continued moving northwestward into the Kuroshio and returned to the North Pacific. Quantitative analyses, using surface climatological wind and sea surface height anomaly (SSHa) data explained both the difference in velocity of drifters between the two channels and their acceleration through the Balintany Channel. The results suggest that the positive meridional gradient of sea surface height in the Luzon Strait, caused by the pileup of seawater driven by the Northeast monsoon, as well as Ekman flow, contribute to the Kuroshio intrusion into the SCS through the Babuyan and Balintany Channels. The former may be the main driving force.