Surface circulation and vertical structure of current off the Keum River estuary, Korea in later spring 2008

Sang Ho Lee, Moon Jin Kim, Chang Soo Kim, Byoung Ju Choi, Hong Bae Moon

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1 Scopus citations


To examine the surface circulation and vertical structure of currents in the region of the Keum River (KR) plume, we analyzed the subinertial surface currents obtained by high frequency radar and the vertical profiles of currents measured at a station (M1) located 10 km distance from the estuary mouth for one month in late spring 2008. Monthly-mean surface circulation is composed of the westward flow from the estuary mouth and the northward flow in the offshore. These surface mean currents are a gradient (geostrophic) current around the monthly-mean plume bulge. Dominant variabilities of the surface currents, winds, and KR-outflow are decomposed by the Empirical Orthogonal Functions (EOF). The first current EOF mode, explaining 39% of total variation, is primarily related to the first wind EOF mode varying along the coast and the second current mode, explaining 33% of total variation, is mainly related to the first KR-outflow EOF mode varying along the mean KR-outflow direction. Meanwhile, vertical profile of the monthly-mean current at M1 shows a two-layer structure of the current flowing offshore (onshore) in the upper (lower) layer because the water column is divided by a pycnocline at 7-9 m depths below the plume water. This two layer structure is a background persisting current structure, at least in spring, maintained by the geostrophic balance induced by the sea level slope and density gradient along the line normal to the westward mean surface current direction due to monthly-mean plume bulge off the KR estuary. EOF analysis of vertical current profiles reveals that the first mode, explaining 43% of total variation, represents the two-layer structure of the current variability. The upper-layer current varies along a line normal to the mainland coastline and the low-layer one varies approximately along a line parallel to the coastline, with direction difference of about 115° between the upper-and low-layer. From the correlation analysis it is found that 60% of the first mode variation is influenced by the first mode of KR-outflow and 36% by the first mode of wind. Any forcing modes of KR-outflow and wind influencing the other current vertical modes could not be found in the present study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-327
Number of pages21
JournalOcean Science Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • geostrophic balance
  • Keum River
  • surface plume current
  • two-layer current structure


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