Typhoon Kai-Tak: An ocean's perfect storm

Tzu Ling Chiang, Chau Ron Wu*, Lie Yauw Oey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Citations (Scopus)


An unusually intense sea surface temperature drop (DSST) of about 10.88C induced by the Typhoon Kai-Tak is observed in the northern South China Sea (SCS) in July 2000. Observational and high-resolution SCS model analyses were carried out to study the favorable conditions and relevant physical processes that cause the intense surface cooling by Kai-Tak. Upwelling and entrainment induced by Kai-Tak account for 62% and 31% of the δSST, respectively, so that upwelling dominates vertical entrainment in producing the surface cooling for a subcritical storm such as Kai-Tak. However, wind intensity and propagation speed alone cannot account for the large δSST. Prior to Kai-Tak, the sea surface was anomalously warm and the main thermocline was anomalously shallow. The cause was a delayed transition of winter to summer monsoon in the northern SCS in May 2000. This produced an anomalously strong wind stress curl and a cold eddy capped by a thin layer of very warm surface water west of Luzon. Kai-Tak was the ocean's perfect storm in passing over the eddy at the "right time," producing the record SST drop and high chlorophyll-a concentration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-233
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jan


  • Pacific Ocean
  • Storm environments
  • Tropical cyclones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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