Blocking and Westward Passage of Eddies in the Luzon Strait

Woei Jen Sheu, Chau Ron Wu*, Lie Yauw Oey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


Satellite observations have shown the abundance of generally westward-propagating eddies in the subtropical regions in the North Pacific Ocean, especially north of 10°N. Eddies transport mass, and can significantly impact the circulation as well as the heat, salt and nutrient balances of the western Pacific marginal seas. This paper uses a numerical model to examine the conditions when eddies can or cannot freely propagate westward through the Luzon Strait into the South China Sea (SCS). Composite analyses on the 10-year model data show that the fates of eddies depend on the strength and path of the Kuroshio. In one path that exists mostly during fall and winter, the Kuroshio loops westward into the SCS, the potential vorticity (PV) across the current is weak, and eddies are likely to propagate freely through the Luzon Strait. In another path, which exists mostly during spring and summer, the Kuroshio tends to leap directly northward bypassing the SCS, the PV across it strengthens, and eddies are then blocked and are constrained to also follow the northward path. Nonlinear eddy-current interaction and the existence of a cyclone north of the Luzon Island during the looping phase explain why eddies of both signs can pass through the strait. It is shown also that the upstream state of the Kuroshio in the western tropical Pacific plays an important role in dictating the different paths of the Kuroshio. The looping (leaping) path is caused by a weakened (stronger) Kuroshio transport related to the northward (southward) shift of the North Equatorial Current in wintertime (summertime).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1783-1791
Number of pages9
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Issue number19-20
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Oct


  • Jet-Eddy interaction
  • Kuroshio intrusion
  • Luzon Strait

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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