An asymmetric upwind flow, Yellow Sea Warm Current: 1. New observations in the western Yellow Sea Academic Article uri icon


  • The winter water mass along the Yellow Sea Trough (YST), especially on the western side of the trough, is considerably warmer and saltier than the ambient shelf water mass. This observed tongue-shape hydrographic feature implies the existence of a winter along-trough and onshore current, often referred to as the Yellow Sea Warm Current (YSWC). However, the YSWC has not been confirmed by direct current measurements and therefore skepticism remains regarding its existence. Some studies suggest that the presence of the warm water could be due to frontal instability, eddies, or synoptic scale wind bursts. It is noted that in situ observations used in most previous studies were from the central and eastern sides of the YST even though it is known that the warm water core is more pronounced along the western side. Data from the western side have been scarce. Here we present a set of newly available Chinese observations, including some from a coordinated effort involving three Chinese vessels in the western YST during the 2006–2007 winter. The data show unambiguously the existence of the warm current on the western side of YST. Both the current and hydrography observations indicate a dominant barotropic structure of YSWC. The westward deviation of YSWC axis is particularly obvious to the south of 35°N and is clearly associated with an onshore movement of warm water. To the north of 35°N, the YSWC flows along the bathymetry with slightly downslope movement. We conclude that the barotropic current is mainly responsible for the warm water intrusion, while the Ekman and baroclinic currents play an important but secondary role. These observations help fill an observational gap and establish a more complete view of the YSWC.

publication date

  • April 29, 2011