Based on a fully coupled, high‐resolution regional climate model, this study analyzed three‐dimensional temperature and momentum changes in the South China Sea (SCS) from 1970 to 2000, during which period the climate shifts from a decadal La Niña‐like condition (before 1976/1977) to a decadal El Niño‐like condition afterward. With a set of partially coupled experiments, sea surface temperature (SST) and kinetic energy (KE) changes during this period are first decomposed into two components: those induced by lateral boundary forcing and those induced by atmospheric surface fluxes. The results showed that the total SST and KE changes show an increasing trend from 1970 to 2000. The two decomposed components together determined 96 and 89% of the SST and KE changes, respectively, implying their dominant roles on the SCS's surface variability. Spatially, a sandwich pattern of air‐sea forcing relationship is revealed in the SCS basin. The increased KE, represented by a cyclonic flow anomaly in the northern SCS, was induced by enhanced cold water intrusion from Pacific into the SCS via the Luzon Strait (boundary forcing). This cold‐water inflow, however, resulted in SST cooling along the northern shelf of the SCS. The maximal SST warming occurred in the central SCS and was attributed to the wind‐evaporation‐SST (WES) positive feedback (surface forcing), in which a southwestward wind anomaly is initialized by SST gradients between the northern and southern SCS. This wind anomaly decelerates the southwestly summer monsoons and in turn increases the SST gradients. Over the shallow Sunda shelf, which is far from the Luzon Strait, the SST/KE variability appeared to be determined primarily by local air‐sea interactions. Furthermore, analyses on subsurface components indicated that the subsurface temperature changes are primarily induced by internal ocean mixing, which becomes significantly important below the thermocline. The enhanced subsurface flow is driven by the Luzon Strait inflow as well, and exits the SCS via the Mindoro‐Sibutu passage.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans – Wiley
Published: Nov 1, 2016
Keywords: ; ; ;
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