North Pacific Currents

The Pacific gyre

A clockwise circulation of water, known as the North Pacific Gyre generally dominates the North Pacific. This pattern of circulation is comprised of several smaller - but no less important currents, the Kuroshio Current, the Alaskan Current, the Californian Current and the North Equatorial Current. The North Equatorial Current moves northeastward along the Philippine Islands, and eventually forms the Kuroshio Current (also called the Japan Current). This warm, saline current warms the shores of the western Pacific, and eventually moves eastward beyond Japan. Some branches of the Kuroshio pass north of the Hawaiian Islands, while others come to within 1000 kilometres of North America. These branches of the Kuroshio are moved by strong westerly winds that push the water into one large current, the North Pacific. This current heads towards North America from the Sea of Japan, and branches into the northward moving Alaskan Current, while the remainder forms the southward moving California Current. The California Current flows southeast off the British Columbia coast towards the Baja Penninsula, and brings cold water to these southern shores. Once it reaches this region of Mexico, it turns sharply west, and forms part of the North Equatorial Current.