The Role of the Mindoro-Sibutu Pathway on the South China Sea Multi–layer Circulation

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  • 1 1 School of Atmospheric Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, and Guangdong Province Key Laboratory for Climate Change and Natural Disaster Studies, Zhuhai, China
  • | 2 2 Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), China
  • | 3 3 State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China
  • | 4 4 School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA
  • | 5 5 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York, USA.
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Abstract

The role of the Mindoro Strait-Sibutu passage pathway in influencing the Luzon Strait inflow to the South China Sea (SCS) and the SCS multi-layer circulation is investigated with a high-resolution (0.1° × 0.1°) regional ocean model. Significant changes are evident in the SCS upper layer circulation (250-900 m) by closing the Mindoro-Sibutu pathway in sensitivity experiments, as Luzon Strait transport is reduced by 75%, from −4.4 Sv to −1.2 Sv. Because of the vertical coupling between the upper and middle layers, closing the Mindoro-Sibutu pathway also weakens clockwise circulation in the middle layer (900–2150 m), but there is no significant change in the deep layer (below 2150 m). The Mindoro-Sibutu pathway is an important branch of the SCS throughflow into the Indonesian Seas. It is also the gateway for oceanic waves propagating clockwise around the Philippines Archipelago from the western Pacific Ocean into the eastern SCS, projecting El Niño-Southern Oscillation sea level signals to the SCS, impacting its interannual variations and multi-layer circulation. The results provide insights into the dynamics of how upstream and downstream passage throughflows are coupled to affect the general circulation in marginal seas.

Corresponding author: Huijie Xue (huijiexue@scsio.ac.cn)

Abstract

The role of the Mindoro Strait-Sibutu passage pathway in influencing the Luzon Strait inflow to the South China Sea (SCS) and the SCS multi-layer circulation is investigated with a high-resolution (0.1° × 0.1°) regional ocean model. Significant changes are evident in the SCS upper layer circulation (250-900 m) by closing the Mindoro-Sibutu pathway in sensitivity experiments, as Luzon Strait transport is reduced by 75%, from −4.4 Sv to −1.2 Sv. Because of the vertical coupling between the upper and middle layers, closing the Mindoro-Sibutu pathway also weakens clockwise circulation in the middle layer (900–2150 m), but there is no significant change in the deep layer (below 2150 m). The Mindoro-Sibutu pathway is an important branch of the SCS throughflow into the Indonesian Seas. It is also the gateway for oceanic waves propagating clockwise around the Philippines Archipelago from the western Pacific Ocean into the eastern SCS, projecting El Niño-Southern Oscillation sea level signals to the SCS, impacting its interannual variations and multi-layer circulation. The results provide insights into the dynamics of how upstream and downstream passage throughflows are coupled to affect the general circulation in marginal seas.

Corresponding author: Huijie Xue (huijiexue@scsio.ac.cn)
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