Analysis of surface chlorophyll a associated with sea surface temperature and surface wind in the South China Sea

  • Hong-Ngu T. HuynhEmail author
  • Aida Alvera-Azcárate
  • Jean-Marie Beckers
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on the 50th International Liège Colloquium on Ocean Dynamics, Liège, Belgium, 28 May to 1 June 2018


In this study, the spatial and temporal variability in surface chlorophyll a (Chl-a) in the whole South China Sea (SCS) was investigated in detail by using 8-day, 4-km, gap-free MODIS-A data (2003–2016). Monthly climatology and empirical-orthogonal-functions analysis of Chl-a were performed in association with sea surface temperature and surface wind to aid in better understanding the physical mechanisms responsible for the Chl-a variability. The results are as follows: (1) Chl-a has out-of-phase variability between the coastal and open-sea regions due to different major factors controlling phytoplankton growth in each region; (2) in particular, Chl-a increases in the northern SCS during winter and in the western and southwestern SCS during summer mainly due to the effects of monsoons and orography; and (3) wind-driven coastal upwelling is stronger in the western SCS than in the eastern SCS. A wind-induced coastal upwelling not reported in the literature was detected along Palawan Island (8–12N, 117–120E) during winter. In the SCS, the Chl-a variability is influenced by the El Niño–Southern Oscillation with a time lag of 4–9 months, depending on the variability scales.


Chlorophyll a Sea surface temperature Monsoon ENSO South China Sea DINEOF 



The 8-day 4-km MODIS-A data were downloaded from The CCMP Version-2.0 vector wind analyses were produced by Remote Sensing Systems ( TMI data were produced by Remote Sensing Systems and sponsored by the NASA Earth Sciences Program ( Niño3.4 SST was downloaded from Bathymetry was extracted from Calculations were run on the super-computer HMEM of Université catholique de Louvain (CISM/UCL) and the Consortium des Équipements de Calcul Intensif en Fédération Wallonie Bruxelles (CÉCI) funded by the Fond de la Recherche Scientifique de Belgique (FRS-FNRS). We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions which very much improve the manuscript. We also thank Dr. A. Barth for his suggestions on calculating the effective number of degrees of freedom.

Funding information

The Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training is gratefully acknowledged for funding H.-N.T. Huynh’s PhD scholarship.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GeoHydrodynamics and Environment Research, AGOUniversity of LiègeLiègeBelgium

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