On the dynamics of the South China Sea Warm Current Academic Article uri icon


  • The South China Sea Warm Current (SCSWC) flows northeastward over the shelf and continental slope in the northern South China Sea (SCS). This current persists in its northeastward direction in all seasons despite the fact that the annually averaged wind stress is decisively southwestward against it. Two major mechanisms have been proposed in previous studies, one attributing it directly to the wind stress forcing within the SCS and the other to the Kuroshio intrusion through the Luzon Strait. In this study we use a simple model to demonstrate that neither of them is the leading forcing mechanism. Instead, the SCSWC is a source- and sink-driven flow induced by the Taiwan Strait Current (TSC), a year-round northward flow through the Taiwan Strait. The two previously suggested mechanisms are important but secondary. The model simulations show that the local wind stress alone would force a current in the opposite direction to the SCSWC. Blocking the Kuroshio intrusion through the Luzon Strait, on the other hand, only weakens the SCSWC. The SCSWC vanishes when the Taiwan Strait is closed in the model.

publication date

  • August 5, 2008