Correlation between subsurface high-salinity water in the northern South China Sea and the North Equatorial Current–Kuroshio circulation system from HYCOM simulations
- 1State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography (LTO), South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510301, China
- 2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Abstract. The North Pacific Tropical Water (NPTW), characterized by subsurface high salinity, is observed in the South China Sea (SCS) and is often used as an indicator of the water intrusion from the northwestern Pacific into the SCS. Based on the assimilation product from a global high-resolution Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM) from 2008 through 2013, this study investigates the seasonal variability of subsurface high-salinity water (SHSW) in the northern SCS and its relationship with the North Equatorial Current–Kuroshio circulation system. Results show that the obvious seasonal variability of the SHSW appears at about 100–200 m in depth. It extends as far west as southeast of Hainan, reaching its volume maximum (minimum) in January (May). The seasonal variance contribution (seasonal variance accounting for the entire variance) is 0.38 in the period we considered, albeit with significant annual variance in other years. Further analysis shows that the changes in high-salinity water volume are highly correlated with the shift in the North Equatorial Current bifurcation latitude (NECBL), which reaches its northernmost point in December and its southernmost point in May. Due to the large-scale wind changes in the Pacific, the Luzon Strait transport (LST) weakens (strengthens) when the NECBL shifts to the south (north) during summer (winter), which results in the reduced (enhanced) SHSW intrusion from the northwestern Pacific into the northern SCS. It is also found that, on a seasonal timescale, the Kuroshio transport (KT) does not vary in phase with NECBL, LST and SHSW, indicating that the KT changes are probably not the governing factor for the seasonal variability of SHSW in the northern SCS.