Vertical structure and variation of currents observed in autumn in the Korea Strait

Sang Ho Lee, Byoung Ju Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


To observe vertical structure and temporal variations of currents in the Tsushima Warm Current region of the Korea Strait, a moored buoy system was deployed in autumn 2009. The moored buoy system measured vertical profiles of current, temperature, and salinity for 24 days and a background hydrographic survey was performed. Along-strait northeastward currents were dominant in the upper layer (8–35 m). The mean current veers counterclockwise from 48 m to 74 m as much as 50°, and its speed is reduced with depth. There were distinct northward onshore currents near the bottom (65–80 m). It was demonstrated that thermal wind relation holds in the inclined pycnocline layer, which generates the counterclockwise veering current structure. Density gradient along the strait is a main factor producing the cross-strait onshore current component below the upper-layer and the cross-strait density gradient reduces the along-strait current component with depth. Previous studies have never focused on the effect of the along-strait density structure on current structure. The first Empirical Orthogonal Function mode (CM1) of current variability explains 70% of local current variations and its vertical structure is close to the mean current structure. The correlation analysis among variations of CM1 current, slope of sea level anomaly (SSLA) and local wind anomaly revealed that the variation of CM1 current is mainly related to the variation of SSLA across the strait (c-SSLA), which is known to be controlled by remote and local wind forcing. Similarity between vertical structures of mean and CM1 current suggests that thermal wind relation is the main dynamics maintaining the counterclockwise turning of CM1 current below the upper layer although the upperlayer CM1 current is controlled by c-SSLA through barotropic geostrophic relation. Time series of temperature and salinity indicate that the thermohaline front between Korean Coastal Water and Tsushima Warm Current Water meanders in time and migrates over the mooring station back and forth. The front meandering and migration also affect the local SSLA and CM1 current variations in autumn in the Korea Strait.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-182
Number of pages20
JournalOcean Science Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 22 Jun 2015


  • Korea Strait
  • Tsushima Warm Current
  • front meandering
  • sea level slope
  • thermal wind relation
  • vertical current structure


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