On the mechanism of the cyclonic circulation in the Gulf of Tonkin in the summer
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The circulation in the Gulf of Tonkin had been traditionally considered to be anticyclonic in the summer. This view was challenged recently by results from reanalyzing observational data, which clearly revealed that the circulation is cyclonic in all seasons. The surface wind stress is monsoonal, southwesterly in the summer and reversed in the winter. It remains unexplained why the circulation is always cyclonic, while the surface forcing reverses seasonally. In this study, we hypothesize that the inflow through Qiongzhou Strait, a shallow and narrow channel between Hainan Island and the Chinese mainland, is responsible for maintaining the cyclonic circulation in the summer. Besides the requirements of mass conservation and bathymetry constraint, this flow, even with a rather small transport, carries a considerable amount of potential vorticity (PV) into the gulf, and the integral constraint of PV requires the presence of a frictional torque to be associated with a cyclonic circulation. Several numerical experiments with a three-dimensional model have been conducted to test this hypothesis. When the westward flow through Qiongzhou Strait is blocked, the model simulates an anticyclonic circulation in the summer. When the westward flow through Qiongzhou Strait is allowed, the circulation changes to a cyclonic one, consistent with our hypothesis.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2008. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research 113 (2008): C09029, doi:10.1029/2007JC004208.
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