Self-excited Variability of the East Korea Warm Current: A Quasi-Geostyophic Model Study

  • Lee, Sang-Ki (Department of Oceanography, Inha University)
  • Published : 1999.03.31


A two-layer quasi-geostrophic numerical model is used to investigate the temporal variability of the East Korea Warm Current (EKWC), especially the separation from the Korean coast and the generation of warm eddies. An attention is given on the active role of the nonlinear boundary layer process. For this, an idealized flat bottom model of the East Sea is forced with the annual mean wind curl and with the inflow-outflow specified at the Korea (Tsushima) and Tsugaru Straits. Two types of separation mechanisms are identified. The first one is influenced by the westward movement of the recirculating leg of the EKWC (externally driven separation),the second one is solely driven by the boundary layer dynamics (internally driven separation). However, these two processes are not independent, and usually coexist. It is hypothesized that 'internally driven separation' arises as the result of relative vorticity production at the wall, its subsequent advection via the EKWC, and its accumulation up to a critical level characterized by the separation of the boundary flow from the coast. It is found that the sharp southeastern corner of the Korean peninsula provides a favorable condition for the accumulation of relative vorticity. The separation of the EKWC usually accompanies the generation of a warm eddy with a diameter of about 120 km. The warm eddy has a typical layer-averaged velocity of 0.3 m/s and its lifespan is up to a year. In general, the characteristics of the simulated warm eddy are compatible with observations. A conclusion is therefore drawn that the variability of the EKWC is at least partially self-excited, not being influenced by any sources of perturbation in the forcing field, and that the likely source of the variability is the barotropic instability although the extent of contribution from the baroclinic instability remains unknown. The effects of the seasonal wind curl and inflow-outflow strength are also investigated.