Water mass properties along cross-sections of the Kuroshio in the East China Sea (ECS) are investigated in detail. We used temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen data from 2000 and 2002, together with historical temperature and salinity data from 1987 to 2004. Water properties were divided into two groups: high and low salinities or oxygen at temperatures warmer than 15 and 12 °C, respectively. We found the existence of outer shelf water W2, as defined by clear modes in frequency distributions of salinity and oxygen within various temperature segments. The outer shelf water was different from both Kuroshio Tropical Water (KTW) and coastal water. We mapped horizontal and vertical distributions of W2, along with W1 and KTW. The outer shelf water was distributed with density σt = 22.5-25.5 over a relatively broad area, from the outer continental shelf to the continental slope, particularly in autumn. Vertical distribution of the water suggests that W2 spread from the outer shelf to just the shelf side of the Kuroshio Current velocity maximum. Seasonal variations are examined with historical data along PN section over 17 years, and suggest that the appearance of W2 is distinct in summer and autumn. By comparing temperature-salinity (T-S) diagrams from Taiwan Strait and east of Taiwan, the outer shelf water (W2) originates from South China Sea Tropical Water (SCSTW), as suggested by Chen, J Geophys Res 110:C05012 (2005). The present study of the ECS clearly shows that SCSTW is transported along the east coast of Taiwan or through the Taiwan Strait into the ECS. It then spreads over a relatively wide area from the outer shelf to just the shelf side of the Kuroshio axis, and there is some horizontal mixing between SCSTW and KTW around the shelf break.
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