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Influence of the Oyashio Current and Tsugaru Warm Current on the circulation and water properties of Otsuchi Bay, Japan

  • Special Section: Original Article
  • Oceanographic observations after the 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku
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  • volume 73pages 115–131 (2017)
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Mooring and hydrographic observations were conducted from September 2012 to May 2014 at the mouth of Otsuchi Bay, a ria along the Pacific coast of Japan. Our observations quantitatively demonstrated that the circulation and the water properties of Otsuchi Bay are strongly influenced by the Tsugaru Warm Current (TWC) and Oyashio Current (OY) at seasonal and subseasonal time scales. Two bottom-mounted velocity profilers and temperature and salinity measurements beneath the near-surface halocline showed a counterclockwise lateral circulation pattern related to the TWC, which was enhanced from summer to autumn. From winter to early spring, the lateral circulation patterns related to the TWC weakened and the influence of the OY occasionally increased. When the OY was weak, surface flows became an overturning structure, with outflows in the upper layer and inflows in the lower layer. When the OY was strong and passed close to the Sanriku coast, the circulation became highly variable and intermittent. Intrusions of the markedly low-salinity OY water were observed on two occasions and persisted for periods of several weeks to several months. Salinity was sometimes less than 33.7, the lower limit of the typical TWC from late summer to autumn even when the TWC dominates. We suggested that this is the seasonal fluctuations of the TWC itself, as the upstream current of the Tsushima Warm Current is freshened in summer as a result of the influence of the Changjiang River. The surface water was generally fresher in the south of the bay than in the north, suggesting the Coriolis deflection of the river plume.

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This research is a contribution to the Tohoku Ecosystem-Associated Marine Science (TEAMS) project, and Regeneration, Conservation and Sustainable Uses of Living Marine Resource Productivity of the Coastal Ecosystem Complex (CEC) program funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan. We also thank the members of the Fisheries Cooperative for Otsuchi Bay and the captain and crews of the R/V Yayoi. The bathymetric data were provided by the Japan Oceanographic Data Center. The offshore CTD observation data were provided by the Iwate Fisheries Technology Center. The data from the ADCP profilers are available at the Research Information and Data Access Site of TEAMS (RIAS;

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Correspondence to Miho Ishizu.

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Ishizu, M., Itoh, S., Tanaka, K. et al. Influence of the Oyashio Current and Tsugaru Warm Current on the circulation and water properties of Otsuchi Bay, Japan. J Oceanogr 73, 115–131 (2017).

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