Circulation and oxygenation of the glacial South China Sea

Dawei Li, Tzu Ling Chiang, Shuh Ji Kao*, Yi Chia Hsin, Li Wei Zheng, Jin Yu Terence Yang, Shih Chieh Hsu, Chau Ron Wu, Minhan Dai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Degree of oxygenation in intermediate water modulates the downward transferring efficiency of primary productivity (PP) from surface water to deep water for carbon sequestration, consequently, the storage of nutrients versus the delivery and sedimentary burial fluxes of organic matter and associated biomarkers. To better decipher the PP history of the South China Sea (SCS), appreciation about the glacial-interglacial variation of the Luzon Strait (LS) throughflow, which determines the mean residence time and oxygenation of water mass in the SCS interior, is required. Based on a well-established physical model, we conducted a 3-D modeling exercise to quantify the effects of sea level drop and monsoon wind intensity on glacial circulation pattern, thus, to evaluate effects of productivity and circulation-induced oxygenation on the burial of organic matter. Under modern climatology wind conditions, a 135 m sea-level drop results in a greater basin closeness and a ∼24% of reduction in the LS intermediate westward throughflow, consequently, an increase in the mean water residence time (from 19.0 to 23.0 years). However, when the wind intensity was doubled during glacial low sea-level conditon, the throughflow restored largely to reach a similar residence time (18.4 years) as today regardless its closeness. Comparing with present day SCS, surface circulation pattern in glacial model exhibits (1) stronger upwelling at the west off Luzon Island, and (2) an intensified southwestward jet current along the western boundary of the SCS basin. Superimposed hypothetically by stronger monsoon wind, the glacial SCS conditions facilitate greater primary productivity in the northern part. Manganese, a redox sensitive indicator, in IMAGES core MD972142 at southeastern SCS revealed a relatively reducing environment in glacial periods. Considering the similarity in the mean water residence time between modern and glacial cases, the reducing environment of the glacial southeastern SCS was thus ascribed to a productivity-induced rather than ventilation-induced consequence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-398
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Asian Earth Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2017 May 1


  • East Asian monsoon
  • Glacial low sea-level
  • Luzon Strait throughflow
  • Primary productivity
  • South China Sea
  • Water oxygenation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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