Articles | Volume 9, issue 1
Research article
22 Feb 2013
Research article |  | 22 Feb 2013

A clustering analysis of eddies' spatial distribution in the South China Sea

J. Yi, Y. Du, X. Wang, Z. He, and C. Zhou

Abstract. Spatial variation is important for studying the mesoscale eddies in the South China Sea (SCS). To investigate such spatial variations, this study made a clustering analysis on eddies' distribution using the K-means approach. Results showed that clustering tendency of anticyclonic eddies (AEs) and cyclonic eddies (CEs) were weak but not random, and the number of clusters were proved greater than four. Finer clustering results showed 10 regions where AEs densely populated and 6 regions for CEs in the SCS. Previous studies confirmed these partitions and possible generation mechanisms were related. Comparisons between AEs and CEs revealed that patterns of AE are relatively more aggregated than those of CE, and specific distinctions were summarized: (1) to the southwest of Luzon Island, AEs and CEs are generated spatially apart; AEs are likely located north of 14° N and closer to shore, while CEs are to the south and further offshore. (2) The central SCS and Nansha Trough are mostly dominated by AEs. (3) Along 112° E, clusters of AEs and CEs are located sequentially apart, and the pairs off Vietnam represent the dipole structures. (4) To the southwest of the Dongsha Islands, AEs are concentrated to the east of CEs. Overlaps of AEs and CEs in the northeastern and southern SCS were further examined considering seasonal variations. The northeastern overlap represented near-concentric distributions while the southern one was a mixed effect of seasonal variations, complex circulations and topography influences.