The spatial and temporal variability of the Kuroshio surface axis northeast of Taiwan Island is investigated using 24 years of surface geostrophic currents derived from satellite altimeter data from 1993 to 2016. The Kuroshio surface axis is derived by an extraction method with three selected parameters, including the length of the subsidiary line, the intervals between two adjacent points, and the distance between the two adjacent subsidiary lines. The empirical mode decomposition analysis on the 24-year Kuroshio axes reveals that the mean periods of intra-seasonal and inter-annual variability, which are the two dominant components, are about 3.2 months and 1.3 years, respectively. The self-organizing map analysis reveals that the variation of Kuroshio axis northeast of Taiwan Island has four best matching unit (BMU) patterns: straight-path (BMUS), meandering-path (BMUM) and two transition stages (BMUT1 and BMUT2). The straight-path pattern shows strong seasonality: more likely occurring in summer. The meandering-path pattern is less frequent than straight-path pattern. During a typical period from November 26, 2012 to January 27, 2013, which is chosen as an independent example, the analysis on the satellite altimeter and sea surface temperature data shows that the patterns of the Kuroshio axis change successively in order of BMUT1→BMUM→BMUT2→BMUS, i.e., the Kuroshio axis migrates from the meandering-path to the straight-path pattern. During the typical period the warm water intrusion and a mesoscale eddy occur at the second stage corresponding to BMUM and migrate northwestward gradually at the last two stages corresponding to BMUT2 and BMUS. The transient order appears only during this typical period but it is not common for the whole study period. The monthly mean relatively vorticity is calculated and analyzed to evaluate the impact of the eddies on the Kuroshio surface axis variability, the results show that the anticyclonic (cyclonic) eddies can promote the Kuroshio surface axis to present the meandering-path (straight-path) pattern because of the potential vorticity conservation. The impacts of the anticyclonic eddies and the cyclonic eddies on the variability of the Kuroshio surface axis are opposite. The long-term day-to-day detection contributes to improving understanding the variability of Kuroshio surface axis northeast of Taiwan Island.
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