The existing estimates of the volume transport from the Pacific Ocean to the South China Sea axe summarized, showing an annual mean westward transport, with the Taiwan Strait outflow subtracted, of 3.5 +/- 2.0 Sv (1 SV = 10(6) m(3) s(-1)). Results of a global ocean circulation model show an annual mean transport of 3.9 Sv from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean through the South China Sea. The boreal winter transport is larger and exhibits a South China Sea branch of the Pacific-to-Indian Ocean throughflow, which originates from the western Philippine Sea toward the Indonesian Seas through the South China Sea, as well as through the Karimata and Mindoro Straits. The southwestward current near the continental slope of the northern South China Sea is shown to be a combination of this branch and the interior circulation gyre. This winter branch can be confirmed by trajectories of satellite-tracked drifters, which clearly show a flow from the Luzon Strait to the Karimata Strait in winter. In summer, the flow in the Karimata Strait is reversed. Numerical model results indicate that the Pacific water can enter the South China Sea and exit toward the Sulu Sea, but no observational evidence is available. The roles of the throughflow branch in the circulation, water properties and air-sea exchange of the South China Sea, and in enhancing and regulating the volume transport and reducing the heat transport of the Indonesian Throughflow, axe discussed.
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