The subarctic frontal zone in the North Pacific: Characteristics of frontal structure from climatological data and synoptic surveys


  • Xiaojun Yuan,

  • Lynne D. Talley


The subarctic front is a thermohaline structure across the North Pacific, separating colder, fresher water to the north from warmer, saltier water to the south. Levitus's [1982] data and 72 conductivity-temperature-depth/salinity-temperature-depth sections are used to show the spatial and seasonal variations of the climatological frontal zone and the characteristics of the frontal structure in synoptic surveys. The temperature gradient in the mean frontal zone is stronger in the western Pacific and decreases eastward, while the salinity gradient has less variation across the Pacific. The temperature gradient also has larger seasonal variation, with a maximum in spring, than the salinity gradient. The synoptic surveys show that the frontal zone is narrower and individual fronts tend to be stronger in the western Pacific than in the eastern Pacific. Density gradients tend to be more compensated at the strongest salinity fronts than at the strongest temperature fronts. A horizontal minimum of vertical stability is found south of the subarctic halocline outcrop. The northern boundary of the North Pacific Intermediate Water merges with the frontal zone west of 175°W and is north of the northern boundary of the subarctic frontal zone in the eastern Pacific. The shallow salinity minima start within the subarctic frontal zone in the eastern Pacific.