Interannual variability of the surface summertime eastward jet in the South China Sea

Yuanlong Li, Weiqing Han, John L. Wilkin, Weifeng G. Zhang, Hernan Arango, Javier Zavala-Garay, Julia Levin, Frederic S. Castruccio

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26 Scopus citations


The summertime eastward jet (SEJ) located around 12°N, 110°E-113°E, as the offshore extension of the Vietnam coastal current, is an important feature of the South China Sea (SCS) surface circulation in boreal summer. Analysis of satellite-derived sea level and sea surface wind data during 1992-2012 reveals pronounced interannual variations in its surface strength (SSEJ) and latitudinal position (YSEJ). In most of these years, the JAS (July, August, and September)-mean SSEJ fluctuates between 0.17 and 0.55 m s21, while YSEJ shifts between 10.7°N and 14.3°N. These variations of the SEJ are predominantly contributed from the geostrophic current component that is linked to a meridional dipole pattern of sea level variations. This sea level dipole pattern is primarily induced by local wind changes within the SCS associated with the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Enhanced (weakened) southwest monsoon at the developing (decaying) stage of an El Nino event causes a stronger (weaker) SEJ located south (north) of its mean position. Remote wind forcing from the tropical Pacific can also affect the sea level in the SCS via energy transmission through the Philippine archipelago, but its effect on the SEJ is small. The impact of the oceanic internal variability, such as eddy-current interaction, is assessed using an ocean general circulation model (OGCM). Such impact can lead to considerable year-to-year changes of sea level and the SEJ, equivalent to ∼20% of the observed variation. This implies the complexity and prediction difficulty of the upper ocean circulation in this region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7205-7228
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography

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