Yellow Sea

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Yellow Sea
China edcp relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Yellow Sea
Coordinates 38°0′N123°0′E / 38.000°N 123.000°E / 38.000; 123.000 Coordinates: 38°0′N123°0′E / 38.000°N 123.000°E / 38.000; 123.000
River sources Yellow River, Hai River, Yalu River, Taedong River, Han River
Basin  countries China, North Korea, and South Korea
Surface area380,000 km2 (150,000 sq mi)
Average depthAvg. 44 m (144 ft)
Max. depthMax. 152 m (499 ft)
Yellow Sea
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Literal meaningYellow Sea
Korean name
Hangul or
Hanja or 西
Literal meaningYellow Sea or West Sea

The Yellow Sea is a marginal sea of the Western Pacific Ocean located between mainland China and the Korean Peninsula, and can be considered the northwestern part of the East China Sea. It is one of four seas named after common colour terms (the others being the Black Sea, the Red Sea and the White Sea), and its name is descriptive of the phenomenon whereby fine sand grains from the Gobi Desert sand storms, that descend annually from the northwest, turn the surface of its waters a golden yellow.


The innermost bay of northwestern Yellow Sea is called the Bohai Sea (previously Pechihli Bay or Chihli Bay), into which flow some of the most important rivers of northern China, such as the Yellow River (through Shandong province and its capital Jinan), the Hai River (through Beijing and Tianjin) and the Liao River (through Liaoning province). Sand and silt carried down by these rivers contribute further to the sea's colour. The northern extension of the Yellow Sea is called the Korea Bay, into which flow the Yalu River, the Chongchon River and the Taedong River.

Since 1 November 2018, the Yellow Sea has also served as the location of "peace zones" between North and South Korea. [1]



The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Yellow Sea (which it also names as "Hwang Hai") as follows: [2]

The Yellow Sea is separated from the Sea of Japan by the boundary from the southern end of Haenam Peninsula in Jeollanamdo to Jeju Island and divided into the East China Sea by the boundary from the west end of Jeju Island to the Yangtze River estuary.


Satellite image of a dust storm over East Asia on 2 March 2008 DustStyormYellowSea2March2008.jpg
Satellite image of a dust storm over East Asia on 2 March 2008

The Yellow Sea, excluding the Bohai, extends by about 960 km (600 mi) from north to south and about 700 km (430 mi) from east to west; it has an area of approximately 380,000 km2 (150,000 sq mi) and a volume of about 17,000 km3 (4,100 cu mi). [4] Its depth is only 44 m (144 ft) on average, with a maximum of 152 m (499 ft). The sea is a flooded section of continental shelf that formed after the last ice age (some 10,000 years ago) as sea levels rose 120 m (390 ft) to their current levels. The depth gradually increases from north to south. [4] The sea bottom and shores are dominated by sand and silt brought by the rivers through the Bohai Sea (Liao River, Yellow River, Hai He) and the Korea Bay (Yalu River). These deposits, together with sand storms are responsible for the yellowish colour of the water referenced in the sea's name. [5]

The seas surrounding Korea, which occupy a corner of Northeast Asia, border the “island nation” from the east, south, and west. Korea has named these the East Sea, South Sea, and West Sea (officially known as the Yellow Sea), respectively. [6]

Major islands of the sea include Anmado, Baengnyeongdo, Daebudo, Deokjeokdo, Gageodo, Ganghwado, Hauido, Heuksando, Hongdo, Jejudo, Jindo, Muuido, Sido, Silmido, Sindo, Wando, Yeongjongdo and Yeonpyeongdo (all in South Korea).

Waves crashing at Jeju Province island Jungmun Daepo Columnar Joints with waves crashing.jpg
Waves crashing at Jeju Province island
Rocky shore in Dalian, Liaoning, China Rocky shore in Dalian.jpg
Rocky shore in Dalian, Liaoning, China

Climate and hydrology

The area has cold, dry winters with strong northerly monsoons blowing from late November to March. Average January temperatures are −10 °C (14 °F) in the north and 3 °C (37 °F) in the south. Summers are wet and warm with frequent typhoons between June and October. [4] Air temperatures range between 10 and 28 °C (50 and 82 °F). The average annual precipitation increases from about 500 mm (20 in) in the north to 1,000 mm (39 in) in the south. Fog is frequent along the coasts, especially in the upwelling cold-water areas. [5]

The sea has a warm cyclone current, forming part of the Kuroshio Current, which diverges near the western part of Japan and flows northward into the Yellow Sea at the speed of below 0.8 km/h (0.50 mph). Southward currents prevail near the sea coast, especially in the winter monsoon period. [5]

Brown sediment spills out into the Yellow Sea from rivers in eastern China and Korea. The nutrients in the sediment may be responsible for the bloom of phytoplankton seen as blue-green swirls. Yellow Sea, February 24, 2015.jpg
Brown sediment spills out into the Yellow Sea from rivers in eastern China and Korea. The nutrients in the sediment may be responsible for the bloom of phytoplankton seen as blue-green swirls.

The water temperature is close to freezing in the northern part in winter, so drift ice patches and continuous ice fields form and hinder navigation between November and March. The water temperature and salinity are homogeneous across the depth. The southern waters are warmer at 6–8 °C (43–46 °F). In spring and summer, the upper layer is warmed up by the sun and diluted by the fresh water from rivers, while the deeper water remains cold and saline. This deep water stagnates and slowly moves south. Commercial bottom-dwelling fishes are found around this mass of water, especially at its southern part. Summer temperatures range between 22 and 28 °C (72 and 82 °F). The average salinity is relatively low, at 30 in the north to 33–34‰ in the south, dropping to 26‰ or lower near the river deltas. In the southwest monsoon season (June to August) the increased rainfall and runoff further reduce the salinity of the upper sea layer. [5] Water transparency increases from about 10 meters (33 ft) in the north up to 45 meters (148 ft) in the south. [4]

Tides are semidiurnal, i.e. rise twice a day. Their amplitude varies between about 0.9 and 3 meters (3.0 and 9.8 ft) at the coast of China. Tides are higher at the Korean Peninsula, typically ranging between 4 and 8 meters (13 and 26 ft) and reaching the maximum in spring. The tidal system rotates in a counterclockwise direction. The speed of the tidal current is generally less than 1.6 km/h (0.99 mph) in the middle of the sea, but may increase to more than 5.6 km/h (3.5 mph) near the coasts. [5] The fastest tides reaching 20 km/h (12 mph) occur in the Myeongnyang Strait between the Jindo Island and the Korean Peninsula. [8]

The tide-related sea level variations result in a land pass 2.9 km (1.8 mi) long and 10–40 meters (33–131 ft) wide opening for approximately an hour between Jindo and Modo islands. The event occurs about twice a year, at the beginning of May and in the middle of June. It had long been celebrated in a local festival called "Jindo Sea Parting Festival", but was largely unknown to the world until 1975, when the French ambassador Pierre Randi described the phenomenon in a French newspaper. [9] [10] [11]

Flora and fauna

Migration paths and resting grounds of bar-tailed godwit at the Yellow Sea. Bar-tailed Godwit9may.png
Migration paths and resting grounds of bar-tailed godwit at the Yellow Sea.

The sea is rich in seaweed (predominantly kelp, Laminaria japonica), cephalopods, crustaceans, shellfish, clams, and especially in blue-green algae which bloom in summer and contribute to the water color (see image above). For example, the seaweed production in the area was as high as 1.5 million tonnes in 1979 for China alone. The abundance of all these plant and animal species increases toward the south and indicates a high sea productivity, accounting for the diversity of fish species and high fish yield from the sea. [13] Several species of goby new to science have been discovered recently in the Yellow Sea. [14]

The southern part of the Yellow Sea, including the entire west coast of Korea, contains a 10 km-wide (6.2 mi) belt of intertidal mudflats, which has the total area of 2,850 km2 (1,100 sq mi) and is maintained by 4–10 m (13–33 ft). Those flats consist of highly productive sediments with a rich benthic fauna and are of great importance for migratory waders and shorebirds. [15] Surveys show that the area is the single most important site for migratory birds on northward migration in the entire East Asian – Australasian Flyway, with more than 35 species occurring in internationally significant numbers. Two million birds, at minimum, pass through at the time, and about half that number use it on southward migration. [16] [17] About 300,000 migrating birds were transiting annually only through the Saemangeum tidal flat area. This estuary was however dammed by South Korea in 1991–2006 that resulted in drying off the land. [18] Land reclamation also took 65% of the intertidal area in China between the 1950s and 2002, [19] and there are plans to reclaim a further 45%. [20]

Oceanic megafaunas'bio-diversities, such as of marine mammals, sea turtles, and larger fish drastically decreased in modern time not only by pollution but also mainly by direct hunting, most extensively Japanese industrial whaling, [21] illegal mass operations by Soviet with supports from Japan. [22] and fewer species survived to today although being still in serious perils. Those include spotted seals, and cetaceans such as minke whales, killer whales, [23] false killer whales, and finless porpoises, but nonetheless all the remnants of species listed could be in very small numbers. Historically, large whales were very abundant either for summering and wintering in the Yellow and Bohai Seas. For example, a unique population of resident fin whales and gray whales [24] were historically presented, [25] or possibly hosted some North Pacific right whales [26] [27] and Humpback whales (3 whales including a cow calf pair was observed at Changhai County in 2015 [28] [29] ) year-round other than migrating individuals, and many other migratory species such as Baird's beaked whales. [30] Even blue whales, Japanese sea lions, dugongs (in southern regions only), [31] and leatherback turtles used to breed or migrate into Yellow and Bohai seas. [32]

Spotted seals are only species thriving in today's Yellow Sea and being the only resident species as well. A sanctuary for these seals is situated at Baengnyeongdo which is also known for local finless porpoises. [33] Great white sharks have been spotted to prey on seals in these areas as well. [34]


A map of population density around the Yellow Sea in East Asia (1994) PopulationDensityYellowSea.png
A map of population density around the Yellow Sea in East Asia (1994)

The coasts of the Yellow Sea are very densely populated, at approximately 250 inhabitants per square kilometer (650/sq mi). [35] The sea waters had been used for fishing by the Chinese, Korean and Japanese ships for centuries. Especially rich in fish are the bottom layers. About 200 fish species are exploited commercially, especially sea bream, croakers, lizard fishes, prawns, cutlassfish, horse mackerel, squid, eel, filefish, Pacific herring, chub mackerel, flounder [36] and jellyfish. [37] The intensity of fishing has been gradually increasing for China and Korea and decreasing for Japan. For example, the production volumes for China rose from 619,000 tonnes in 1985 to 1,984,400 tonnes in 1996. [38] All species are overfished, however, and while the total catchments are rising, the fish population is continuously declining for most species. [5] [39]

Navigation is another traditional activity in the Yellow Sea. The main Chinese ports are Dalian, Tianjin, Qingdao and Qinhuangdao. The major South Korean ports on the Yellow Sea are Incheon, Gunsan and Mokpo, and that for North Korea is Nampho, the outport of Pyongyang. The Bohai Train Ferry provides a shortcut between the Liaodong Peninsula and Shandong. [5] A major naval accident occurred on 24 November 1999 at Yantai, Shandong, China when the 9,000-ton Chinese ferry Dashun caught fire and capsized in rough seas. About 300 people were killed making it the worst maritime incident in China. [40]

Oil exploration has been successful in the Chinese and North Korean portions of the sea, with the proven and estimated reserves of about 9 and 20 billion tonnes, respectively. [41] However, the study and exploration of the sea is somewhat hindered by insufficient sharing of information between the involved countries. China initiated collaborations with foreign oil companies in 1979, but this initiative declined later. [5]

A major oil spill occurred on 16 July 2010 when a pipeline exploded at the north-east port of Dalian, causing a wide-scale fire and spreading about 1,500 tonnes of oil over the sea area of 430 km2 (170 sq mi). The port had been closed and fishing suspended until the end of August. Eight hundred fishing boats and 40 specialized vessels were mobilized to relieve the environmental damage. [42]

State of the environment

The Yellow Sea is considered among the most degraded marine areas on earth. [43] Loss of natural coastal habitats due to land reclamation has resulted in the destruction of more than 60% of tidal wetlands around the Yellow Sea coastline in approximately 50 years. [19] Rapid coastal development for agriculture, aquaculture and industrial development are considered the primary drivers of coastal destruction in the region. [19] This degree of loss of area, widespread pollution, algal blooms and declines of invertebrate and vertebrate fauna have resulted in the classification of this ecosystem as endangered. [44]

In addition to land reclamation, the Yellow Sea ecosystem is facing several other serious environmental problems. Pollution is widespread and deterioration of pelagic and benthic habitat quality has occurred, and harmful algal blooms frequently occur. [45] Invasion of introduced species are having a detrimental effect on the Yellow Sea environment. There are 25 intentionally introduced species and 9 unintentionally introduced species in the Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem. [43] Declines of biodiversity, fisheries and ecosystem services in the Yellow Sea are widespread. [43]

The tidal flats of the Yellow Sea are considered endangered. [44]

Location of Korean Peace Zones

On 1 November 2018, officials from South Korea's Ministry of National Defense confirmed that "peace zones" had been established by the North and South Korean militaries in the Yellow Sea area that touches the North and South Korean demarcation line. [1] A buffer zone was also created in the Yellow Sea's Northern Limit Line (NLL). [46]

See also

Related Research Articles

Geography of South Korea Overview of the geography of South Korea

South Korea is located in East Asia, on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula located out from the far east of the Asian landmass. The only country with a land border to South Korea is North Korea, lying to the north with 238 kilometres (148 mi) of the border running along the Korean Demilitarized Zone. South Korea is mostly surrounded by water and has 2,413 kilometres (1,499 mi) of coast line along three seas; to the west is the Yellow Sea, to the south is the East China Sea, and to the east is called Donghae Korean: 동해; Hanja: 東海; in South Korea, literally means east sea). Geographically, South Korea's landmass is approximately 100,032 square kilometres (38,623 sq mi). 290 square kilometres (110 sq mi) of South Korea are occupied by water. The approximate coordinates are 37° North, 128° East.

Yellow River Major river in China

The Yellow River is the second-longest river in China, after the Yangtze River, and the sixth-longest river system in the world at the estimated length of 5,464 km (3,395 mi). Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai province of Western China, it flows through nine provinces, and it empties into the Bohai Sea near the city of Dongying in Shandong province. The Yellow River basin has an east–west extent of about 1,900 kilometers (1,180 mi) and a north–south extent of about 1,100 km (680 mi). Its total drainage area is about 795,000 square kilometers (307,000 sq mi).

Sea of Japan Marginal sea between Japan, Russia and Korea

The Sea of Japan(see below for other names) is the marginal sea between the Japanese archipelago, Sakhalin, the Korean Peninsula, and the Russian mainland. The Japanese archipelago separates the sea from the Pacific Ocean. Like the Mediterranean Sea, it has almost no tides due to its nearly complete enclosure from the Pacific Ocean. This isolation also affects faunal diversity and salinity, both of which are lower than in the open ocean. The sea has no large islands, bays or capes. Its water balance is mostly determined by the inflow and outflow through the straits connecting it to the neighboring seas and the Pacific Ocean. Few rivers discharge into the sea and their total contribution to the water exchange is within 1%.

Bay of Fundy Bay on the east coast of North America

The Bay of Fundy is a bay between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, with a small portion touching the US state of Maine. Its extremely high tidal range is the highest in the world. The name is likely a corruption of the French word fendu, meaning 'split'.

Moreton Bay

Moreton Bay is a bay located on the eastern coast of Australia 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) from central Brisbane, Queensland. It is one of Queensland's most important coastal resources. The waters of Moreton Bay are a popular destination for recreational anglers and are used by commercial operators who provide seafood to market.

Brydes whale Species of mammal

Bryde's whale, or the Bryde's whale complex, putatively comprises three species of rorqual and maybe four. The "complex" means the number and classification remains unclear because of a lack of definitive information and research. The common Bryde's whale is a larger form that occurs worldwide in warm temperate and tropical waters, and the Sittang or Eden's whale is a smaller form that may be restricted to the Indo-Pacific. Also, a smaller, coastal form of B. brydei is found off southern Africa, and perhaps another form in the Indo-Pacific differs in skull morphology, tentatively referred to as the Indo-Pacific Bryde's whale. The recently described Omura's whale, was formerly thought to be a pygmy form of Bryde's, but is now recognized as a distinct species. Rice's whale, which makes its home solely in the Gulf of Mexico, was once considered a distinct population of Bryde's whale, but in 2021 it was described as a separate species.

Gunsan Municipal City in Honam, South Korea

Gunsan, also romanized as Kunsan, is a city in North Jeolla Province, South Korea. It is on the south bank of the Geum River just upstream from its exit into the Yellow Sea. It has emerged as a high-tech manufacturing industrial city and an international trade seaport that is approximately 200 km (120 mi) southwest of Seoul on the midwest coast of the Korean Peninsula.

Mudflat Coastal wetlands where sediments have been deposited by tides or rivers

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Leizhou Peninsula

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Pulicat Lake

Pulicat Lagoon is the second largest brackish water lagoon in India, after Chilika Lake. Pulicat Lagoon is considered to be the second largest brackish water body in India measuring 759 square kilometres (293 sq mi). The lagoon is one of the three important wetlands to attract northeast monsoon rain clouds during the October to December season in the Tirupati Region. The lagoon comprises the following regions, which adds up 759 square kilometres (293 sq mi) according to Andhra Pradesh Forest Department: 1) Pulicat Lake 2) Marshy/Wetland Land Region (AP) 3) Venadu Reserve Forest (AP) 4) Pernadu Reserve Forest (AP) The lagoon was cut across in the middle by the Sriharikota Link Road, which divided the water body into lagoon and marshy land. The lagoon encompasses the Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary. The barrier island of Sriharikota separates the lagoon from the Bay of Bengal and is home to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre. Major part of the lagoon comes under Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh.

Chilika Lake

Chilika Lake is a brackish water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha state on the east coast of India, at the mouth of the Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal, covering an area of over 1,100 km2. It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the largest brackish water lagoon in the world after The New Caledonian barrier reef. It has been listed as a tentative UNESCO World Heritage site.

Foxe Basin

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Geography of Korea Geographical features of the Korean peninsula

Korea comprises the Korean Peninsula and 3,960 nearby islands. The peninsula is located in Northeast Asia, between China and Japan. To the northwest, the Amnok River separates Korea from China and to the northeast, the Duman River separates Korea from China and Russia. The Yellow Sea lies to the west, the East China Sea and Korea Strait to the south, and the Sea of Japan to the east. Notable islands include Jeju Island (Jejudo), Ulleung Island (Ulleungdo), and the Liancourt Rocks.

Spoon-billed sandpiper Species of bird

The spoon-billed sandpiper is a small wader which breeds in northeastern Russia and winters in Southeast Asia. This species is highly threatened, and it is said that since the 1970s the breeding population has decreased significantly. By 2000, the estimated breeding population of the species was 350–500.


Saemangeum is an estuary tidal flat on of the Yellow Sea in South Korea. It was dammed by the association in Korea's Saemangeum Seawall Project, completed on, after that between the association and activists, and it scheduled to be changed on either agricultural or industrial land. to, it had played as for birds. of this seawall is likely to be a major contributor to the of many species. Around depended on the Saemangeum as a feeding ground on the 24,000 km migration between Asia and Alaska and Russia, including the endangered waders Nordmann's greenshank and spoon-billed sandpiper. A conservation grop said the government of failed to w\tch the project's impact on local wildlife in a see through way, and carried out an alone watching program in 2006.

Saemangeum Seawall

The Saemangeum Seawall, located on the southwest coast of the Korean peninsula, is the world's longest man-made dyke, measuring 33 kilometres (21 mi). It runs between two headlands, and separates the Yellow Sea and the former Saemangeum estuary.

Wildlife of China Overview of the wildlife of China

China's vast and diverse landscape is home to a profound variety and abundance of wildlife. As of one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world, China has, according to one measure, 7,516 species of vertebrates including 4 fish, 69 bird, 562 mammal, 403 reptile and 346 amphibian species. In terms of the number of species, China ranks third in the world in mammals, eighth in birds, seventh in reptiles and seventh in amphibians.

China’s coastline covers approximately 14,500 km from the Bohai gulf in the north to the Gulf of Tonkin in the south. Most of the northern half is low lying, although some of the mountains and hills of Northeast China and the Shandong Peninsula extend to the coast. The southern half is more irregular. In Zhejiang and Fujian provinces, for example, much of the coast is rocky and steep. South of this area the coast becomes less rugged: Low mountains and hills extend more gradually to the coast, and small river deltas are common.

Birds Korea is an organisation dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats in South Korea and the wider Yellow Sea Eco-region.

Bohai Sea The innermost gulf of the Yellow Sea and Korea Bay on the coast of Northeastern and North China

The Bohai Sea or Bo Sea, also known as Bohai Gulf, Bo Gulf or Pohai Bay, is a marginal sea approximately 78,000 km2 (30,000 sq mi) in area on the east coast of mainland China. It is the northwestern and innermost extension of the Yellow Sea, to which it connects to the east via the Bohai Strait.


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