, Volume 58, Issue 3, pp 525-529

Depth Distribution of the Subtropical Gyre in the North Pacific

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Large-scale aspects of the North Pacific subtropical gyre have been investigated using a climatology of temperature and salinity (World Ocean Atlas 1998). In the central and eastern parts of the basin, the axis of the subtropical gyre, defined as the meridional maximum of dynamic height, tends to move poleward from about 25°N near the surface to about 40°N in the upper intermediate layers. In the western part of the basin, the axis is seen at about 30°N, remaining almost unchanged with depth. Striking features associated with this vertical distribution include a northward shift of the bifurcation latitude of the North Equatorial Current at increasing depth and a barotropic nature of the confluence point between the Kuroshio and Oyashio at their respective western boundaries. The former occurs at about 14°N near the surface and extends north of 20°N at depths around 800 m. The latter, situated at about 36.4°N off Japan, does not appear to have a strong signature of depth-dependence. While some of these results are already known from sporadic hydrographic observations, they have not hitherto been represented in a three-dimensional climatology.

This revised version was published online in July 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.