3 years ago

Effect of potential vorticity flux on the circulation in the South China Sea

Zexun Wei, Junchuan Sun, Tangdong Qu, Dezhou Yang, Yaohua Zhu, Yonggang Wang
This study analyzes temperature and salinity products from the U.S. Navy Generalized Digital Environment Model. To avoid the fictitious assumption of no-motion reference level, a P-vector inverse method is employed to derive geostrophic velocity. Line integral of geostrophic velocity shows evidence for the existence of a sandwiched circulation in the South China Sea (SCS), i.e., cyclonic circulation in the subsurface and deep layers and anticyclonic in the intermediate layer. To reveal the factors responsible for the sandwiched circulation, we derive the potential vorticity equation based on a four-and-a-half-layer quasi-geostrophic model and apply theoretical potential vorticity constraint to density layers. The result shows that the sandwiched circulation is largely induced by planetary potential vorticity flux through lateral boundaries, mainly the Luzon Strait. This dynamical mechanism lies in the fact that the net potential vorticity inflow in the subsurface and deep layers leads to a positive layer-average vorticity in the SCS basin, yielding vortex stretching and a cyclonic basin-wide circulation. On the contrary, the net potential vorticity outflow in the intermediate layer induces a negative layer-average vorticity, generating an anticyclonic basin-wide circulation in the SCS. Furthermore, by illustrating different consequence from depth/density layers, we clarify that density layers are essential for applying theoretical potential vorticity constraint to the isolated deep SCS basin.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1002/2016JC012375

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