abstract:Sea surface temperature (SST) data derived from satellite and in situ measurements are used to study the thermal variability in the South China Sea (SCS). Time-frequency-energy distributions, periods of variability, and trends are computed by the Hilbert-Huang transform method. The SST trend from 1982 to 2005 is 0.276 degrees C per decade in the SCS which is higher than 0.144 degrees C per decade in the western Pacific warm pool (WPWP). The warm pool (SST >= 28 degrees C) area in the SCS has increased by 0.20 x 10(6) km(2) per decade. The SST and area of the warm pool in the SCS are strongly correlated, respectively, with the SST and area of the WPWP with a time lag of 1 month, suggestive of a strong connection between these two warm pools. Once the annual cycle is eliminated, decadal oscillations dominate the variability of SST and warm pool area in the SCS.