The circulation in the surface waters of the Japan Sea is driven in part by thermohaline forcing associated with the flux of cold, low-salinity water from the Tatarskiy Strait. Existing numerical models suggest that this water contributes to the Liman Current, which flows from northeast to southwest along the Russian coast. The major source of Japan Sea freshwater is the Amur River, which flows into the sea through Tatarskiy Strait, but has a near-zero minimum during January to March. As an alternate source of freshwater to the surface layer, we derive from meteorological and remote sensing data for the 1992-1994 winters, the magnitude of the freshwater flux generated by the southward transport and melt of pack ice in the Tatarskiy Strait. Given characteristic geostrophic northerly wind speeds of 10 m s-1 and air temperatures of –13°C, the winter freshwater flux into the ice edge is about 10 km3 month-1. Although no oceanographic or sea ice data exist for the Strait, comparison of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images of ice processes in the Strait with those in the Bering Sea where oceanographic data exist suggests that ice edge melting in the Strait generates an oceanic frontal structure and a westward geostrophic current, which we hypothesize feeds into the Liman Current. Comparison of the results of a simple baroclinic model driven by this freshwater flux with a section across the Liman Current yields comparable density differences and transports. In summary, our results show that the freshwater flux associated with the southward ice transport in the Tatarskiy Strait may contribute to the driving of the Liman Current during winter.
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