Tropical cyclone-induced ocean response: A comparative study of the South China Sea and tropical Northwest Pacific

TitleTropical cyclone-induced ocean response: A comparative study of the South China Sea and tropical Northwest Pacific
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsMei W, Lien C.C, Lin II, Xie SP
JournalJournal of Climate
Date Published2015/08
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0894-8755
Accession NumberWOS:000359532800005
Keywordschlorophyll-a; evolution; hurricane; intensity; model; modulation; pacific; surface temperature response; thermal structure; typhoon kai-tak; variability

The thermocline shoals in the South China Sea (SCS) relative to the tropical northwest Pacific Ocean (NWP), as required by geostrophic balance with the Kuroshio. The present study examines the effect of this difference in ocean state on the response of sea surface temperature (SST) and chlorophyll concentration to tropical cyclones (TCs), using both satellite-derived measurements and three-dimensional numerical simulations. In both regions, TC-produced SST cooling strongly depends on TC characteristics (including intensity as measured by the maximum surface wind speed, translation speed, and size). When subject to identical TC forcing, the SST cooling in the SCS is more than 1.5 times that in the NWP, which may partially explain weaker TC intensity on average observed in the SCS. Both a shallower mixed layer and stronger subsurface thermal stratification in the SCS contribute to this regional difference in SST cooling. The mixed layer effect dominates when TCs are weak, fast-moving, and/or small; and for strong and slow-moving TCs or strong and large TCs, both factors are equally important. In both regions, TCs tend to elevate surface chlorophyll concentration. For identical TC forcing, the surface chlorophyll increase in the SCS is around 10 times that in the NWP, a difference much stronger than that in SST cooling. This large regional difference in the surface chlorophyll response is at least partially due to a shallower nutricline and stronger vertical nutrient gradient in the SCS. The effect of regional difference in upper-ocean density stratification on the surface nutrient response is negligible. The total annual primary production increase associated with the TC passage estimated using the vertically generalized production model in the SCS is nearly 3 times that in the NWP (i.e., 6.4 +/- 0.4 x 10(12) versus 2.2 +/- 0.2 x 10(12) g C), despite the weaker TC activity in the SCS.

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