Journal of Oceanography, Vol. 65 (No. 2), pp. 151-164, 2009
Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 164-8639, Japan
(Received 16 October 2007; in revised form 1 May 2008; accepted 8 September 2008)
Abstract: Temperature and salinity data from 2003 through 2006 from Argo profiling floats have been analyzed to examine the formation and circulation of the North Pacific Subtropical Mode Water (STMW) and the interannual variation of its properties over the entire distribution region. STMW is formed in late winter in the zonally-elongated recirculation gyre south of the Kuroshio and its extension, which extends north of ~28°N, from 135°E to near the date line. The recirculation gyre consists of several anticyclonic circulations, in each of which thick STMW with a characteristic temperature is formed. After spring, the thick STMW tends to be continually trapped in the respective circulations, remaining in the formation region. From this stagnant pool of thick STMW, some portion seeps little by little into the southern region, where southwestward subsurface currents advect relatively thin STMW as far as 20°N to the south and just east of Taiwan to the west. The STMW formed in the recirculation gyre becomes colder, less saline, and denser to the east, with an abrupt change of properties across 140°E and a gradual change east of 140°E. The STMW formed east of 140°E exhibits coherent interannual variations, increasing its temperature by ~1°C from 2003 through 2006 and also increasing its salinity by ~0.05 from 2003 through 2005. These property changes are clearly detected in the southern region as far downstream as just east of Taiwan, with reasonable time lags.