We investigated the sea level response of the Japan Sea to changes in atmospheric pressure using barotropic shallow water models driven by idealized synoptic pressure forcing. The regional response lags behind the synoptic pressure forcing because the adjustment is slowly established by water exchange through narrow, shallow straits. The sea level response of the realistic Japan Sea to the idealized forcing varies with geographical location and shows zonally asymmetric variations in amplitude and phase. The simulated response is in good agreement with the observed response of sea level recorded at Japanese coastal tide gauges. The results of a simple one-dimensional model indicate that the zonally asymmetric pattern, with an eastward-propagating pressure system, is essentially caused by bottom friction in shallow straits. This asymmetry arises if the typical wavelength of the synoptic pressure system is slightly larger than the spatial scale of the Japan Sea.
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