Effects of Kuroshio intrusions on nonlinear internal waves in the South China Sea during winter

Document Type


Date of Original Version



During winter the Kuroshio tends to cross Luzon Strait, penetrating the northeastern South China Sea where it forms energetic mesoscale structures. Luzon Strait is also a site where westward-propagating large-amplitude internal waves are generated. We describe observations of these waves acquired in the deep basin of the South China Sea during the winter of 2010-2011, with the goal of assessing the influence of mesoscale variability on their properties. Combining tidal current simulations with an internal wave generation and evolution model, we obtain time series of deviations between our observations and the model simulations. These deviations are analyzed in terms of mesoscale variability based on the data-assimilated HYbrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM) simulations. We find that simplified models of nonlinear internal wave response to changes in horizontal stratification gradients and vertical shear provide at best weak simulations of amplitude modulation. In contrast to these results, deviations of internal wave arrival time, occurring up to 2 h early during Kuroshio inflows, are quite well simulated when derived from integration of the first internal mode phase speed along two-dimensional ray-traced paths using HYCOM simulations of velocity and density fields together with bathymetry. Refraction of the internal waves by Kuroshio intrusions can lead to substantial distortion of the paths, sufficient to provide a potential explanation for the apparent suppression of waves during previous winter measurements. Our results suggest that the internal wave field can be a sensitive indicator of mesoscale variability in Luzon Strait and the northeastern South China Sea. Key Points Persistent nonlinear internal waves are observed in the SCS during winter Kuroshio intrusion modulates propagation paths and arrival time of NLIWs Internal wave fields can be a sensitive indicator of mesoscale variability ©2013. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans