Near-inertial waves (NIWs), which have clockwise (anticlockwise) rotational motion in the Northern (Southern) Hemisphere, exist everywhere in the ocean except at the equator; their frequencies are largely determined by the local inertial frequency, f. It is thought that they supply about 25% of the energy for global ocean mixing through turbulence resulting from their strong current shear and breaking; this contributes mainly to upper-ocean mixing which is related to air-sea interaction, typhoon genesis, marine ecosystem, carbon cycle, and climate change. Observations and numerical simulations have shown that the low-mode NIWs can travel many hundreds of kilometres from a source region toward the equator because the lower inertial frequency at lower latitudes allows their free propagation. Here, using observations and a numerical simulation, we demonstrate poleward propagation of typhoon-induced NIWs by a western boundary current, the Kuroshio. Negative relative vorticity, meaning anticyclonic rotational tendency opposite to the Earth’s spin, existing along the right-hand side of the Kuroshio path, makes the local inertial frequency shift to a lower value, thereby trapping the waves. This negative vorticity region works like a waveguide for NIW propagation, and the strong Kuroshio current advects the waves poleward with a speed ~85% of the local current. This finding emphasizes that background currents such as the Kuroshio and the Gulf Stream play a significant role in redistribution of the NIW energy available for global ocean mixing.
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