We use the U.S. Navy’s Master Oceanographic Observation Data Set (MOODS) for the Yellow Sea/East China Sea (YES) to investigate the climatological water mass features and the seasonal and non-seasonal variabilities of the thermohaline structure, and use the Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (COADS) from 1945 to 1989 to investigate the linkage between the fluxes (momentum, heat, and moisture) across the air-ocean interface and the formation of the water mass features. After examining the major current systems and considering the local bathymetry and water mass properties, we divide YES into five regions: East China Sea (ECS) shelf, Yellow Sea (YS) Basin, Cheju bifurcation (CB) zone, Taiwan Warm Current (TWC) region, Kuroshio Current (KC) region. The long term mean surface heat balance corresponds to a heat loss of 30 W m−2 in the ESC and CB regions, a heat loss of 65 W m−2 in the KC and TWC regions, and a heat gain of 15 W m−2 in the YS region. The surface freshwater balance is defined by precipitation minus evaporation. The annual water loss from the surface for the five subareas ranges from 1.8 to 4 cm month−1. The fresh water loss from the surface should be compensated for from the river run-off. The entire water column of the shelf region (ECS, YS, and CB) undergoes an evident seasonal thermal cycle with maximum values of temperature during summer and maximum mixed layer depths during winter. However, only the surface waters of the TWC and KC regions exhibit a seasonal thermal cycle. We also found two different relations between surface salinity and the Yangtze River run-off, namely, out-of-phase in the East China Sea shelf and in-phase in the Yellow Sea. This may confirm an earlier study that the summer fresh water discharge from the Yangtze River forms a relatively shallow, low salinity plume-like structure extending offshore on average towards the northeast.
Yellow SeaEast China Seasurface net heat fluxfresh water fluxseasonal variabilitythermohaline structure