Vorticity budget study on the seasonal upper circulation in the northern South China Sea from altimetry data and a numerical model

Research paper by Shuqun Cai, Shu Zheng, Yinghui He

Indexed on: 28 Oct '12Published on: 28 Oct '12Published in: Journal of Ocean University of China


Based on the EOF analyses of Absolute Dynamic Topography satellite data, it is found that, in summer, the northern South China Sea (SCS) is dominated by an anticyclonic gyre whilst by a cyclonic one in winter. A connected single-layer and two-layer model is employed here to investigate the dynamic mechanism of the circulation in the northern SCS. Numerical experiments show that the nonlinear term, the pressure torque and the planetary vorticity advection play important roles in the circulation of the northern SCS, whilst the contribution by seasonal wind stress curl is local and limited. Only a small part of the Kuroshio water intrudes into the SCS, it then induces a positive vorticity band extending southwestward from the west of the Luzon Strait (LS) and a negative vorticity band along the 200 m isobath of the northern basin. The positive vorticity field induced by the local summer wind stress curl is weaker than that induced in winter in the northern SCS. Besides the Kuroshio intrusion and monsoon, the water transports via the Sunda Shelf and the Sibutu Passage are also important to the circulation in the northern SCS, and the induced vorticity field in summer is almost contrary to that in winter. The strength variations of these three key factors (Kuroshio, monsoon and the water transports via the Sunda Shelf and the Sibutu Passage) determine the seasonal variations of the vorticity and eddy fields in the northern SCS. As for the water exchange via the LS, the Kuroshio intrusion brings about a net inflow into the SCS, and the monsoon has a less effect, whilst the water transports via the Sunda Shelf and the Sibutu Passage are the most important influencing factors, thus, the water exchange of the SCS with the Pacific via the LS changes dramatically from an outflow of the SCS in summer to an inflow into the SCS in winter.