We examine the formation mechanism of the South China Sea Warm Current in winter, using a high-resolution, numerical model. The current, noted for its ability to flow against the prevailing northeast monsoon in winter, has received considerable attentions in recent years. The collective wisdom from previous models points to two likely generation scenarios: occasional wind relaxation or the Kuroshio intrusion. The present model consistently points to the wind relaxation as the dominant mechanism. When comparing differences between previous models and ours, we also conclude that the Kuroshio intrusion helps, but is not chiefly responsible. Tracing the current to the source, we identify the elevated sea level in the Gulf of Tonkin, induced by the northeast monsoon, as the ultimate driving force. The presence of Hainan Island bears little importance in generating the current.
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