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Mean Flow in the Gulf of Mexico

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  • 1 Department of Oceanography, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
  • | 2 Del Mar, California
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Abstract

Several independent data sources suggest that there is a net upper-layer mass flux O(3 Sv) (Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) to the west in the central Gulf of Mexico, even though the western gulf is a closed basin. A plausible explanation is that this net flux is pumped downward by the convergent wind-driven Ekman pumping, as is typical of all midlatitude anticlyclonic gyres. The downward flux can follow isopycnals to depths O(500–600 m) and deeper by eddy mixing; a mechanism for forcing deep water to the south through the Yucatan Channel is provided by the intrusion and ring-shedding cycle of the Loop Current. Potential vorticity maps show that a deep flow from the western gulf back to the Yucatan Channel is likely.

Corresponding author address: Wilton Sturges, Dept. of Oceanography, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306. Email: sturges@ocean.fsu.edu

Abstract

Several independent data sources suggest that there is a net upper-layer mass flux O(3 Sv) (Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) to the west in the central Gulf of Mexico, even though the western gulf is a closed basin. A plausible explanation is that this net flux is pumped downward by the convergent wind-driven Ekman pumping, as is typical of all midlatitude anticlyclonic gyres. The downward flux can follow isopycnals to depths O(500–600 m) and deeper by eddy mixing; a mechanism for forcing deep water to the south through the Yucatan Channel is provided by the intrusion and ring-shedding cycle of the Loop Current. Potential vorticity maps show that a deep flow from the western gulf back to the Yucatan Channel is likely.

Corresponding author address: Wilton Sturges, Dept. of Oceanography, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306. Email: sturges@ocean.fsu.edu

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