The Kuroshio Extension: a leading mechanism for the seasonal sea-level variability along the west coast of Japan Academic Article uri icon


  • Sea level changes coherently along the two coasts of Japan on the seasonal time scale. AVISO satellite altimetry data and OFES (OGCM for the Earth Simulator) results indicate that the variation propagates clockwise from Japan's east coast through the Tsushima Strait into the Japan/East Sea (JES) and then northward along the west coast. In this study, we hypothesize and test numerically that the sea level variability along the west coast of Japan is remotely forced by the Kuroshio Extension (KE) off the east coast. Topographic Rossby waves and boundary Kelvin waves facilitate the connection. Our 3-d POM model when forced by observed wind stress reproduces well the seasonal changes in the vicinity of JES. Two additional experiments were conducted to examine the relative roles of remote forcing and local forcing. The sea level variability inside the JES was dramatically reduced when the Tsushima Strait is blocked in one experiment. The removal of the local forcing, in another experiment, has little effect on the JES variability. Both experiments support our hypothesis that the open-ocean forcing, possibly through the KE variability, is the leading forcing mechanism for sea level change along the west coast of Japan.

publication date

  • June 2010