Journal of Oceanography

, Volume 68, Issue 1, pp 21–43

Review on North Pacific Subtropical Countercurrents and Subtropical Fronts: role of mode waters in ocean circulation and climate

Special Section: Review New developments in mode-water research: Dynamic and climatic effects

DOI: 10.1007/s10872-011-0083-7

Cite this article as:
Kobashi, F. & Kubokawa, A. J Oceanogr (2012) 68: 21. doi:10.1007/s10872-011-0083-7


A Subtropical Countercurrent (STCC) is a narrow eastward jet on the equator side of a subtropical gyre, flowing against the broad westward Sverdrup flow. Together with theories, recent enhanced observations and model simulations have revealed the importance of mode waters in the formation and variability of North Pacific STCCs. There are three distinct STCCs in the North Pacific, maintained by low potential vorticity (PV) that mode waters carry from the north. Model simulations show that changes in mode water ventilation result in interannual to interdecadal variations and long-term changes of STCCs. STCCs affect the atmosphere through their surface thermal effects, inducing anomalous cyclonic wind curl and precipitation along them. Thus, mode waters are not merely passive water masses but have dynamical and climatic effects. For temporal variability, atmospheric forcings are also suggested to be important in addition to the variability of mode waters. STCCs exist in other oceans and they are also flanked by mode waters on their poleward sides, suggesting that they are maintained by similar dynamics.


Subtropical CountercurrentSubtropical FrontMode waterOcean circulationClimate

Copyright information

© The Oceanographic Society of Japan and Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Marine TechnologyTokyo University of Marine Science and TechnologyTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Research Institute for Global ChangeJapan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and TechnologyYokosukaJapan
  3. 3.Faculty of Environmental Earth ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan