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Loop Current and Deep Eddies

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  • 1 Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
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Abstract

In contrast to the Loop Current and rings, much less is known about deep eddies (deeper than 1000 m) of the Gulf of Mexico. In this paper, results from a high-resolution numerical model of the Gulf are analyzed to explain their origin and how they excite topographic Rossby waves (TRWs) that disperse energy to the northern slopes of the Gulf. It is shown that north of Campeche Bank is a fertile ground for the growth of deep cyclones by baroclinic instability of the Loop Current. The cyclones have horizontal (vertical) scales of about 100 km (1000∼2000 m) and swirl speeds ∼0.3 m s−1. The subsequent development of these cyclones consists of two modes, A and B. Mode-A cyclones evolve into the relatively well-known frontal eddies that propagate around the Loop Current. Mode-A cyclone can amplify off the west Florida slope and cause the Loop Current to develop a “neck” that sometimes leads to shedding of a ring; this process is shown to be the Loop Current’s dominant mode of upper-to-deep variability. Mode-B cyclones are “shed” and propagate west-northwestward at speeds of about 2–6 km day−1, often in concert with an expanding loop or a migrating ring. TRWs are produced through wave–eddy coupling originating primarily from the cyclone birthplace as well as from the mode-B cyclones, and second, but for longer periods of 20∼30 days only, also from the mode-A frontal eddies. The waves are “channeled” onto the northern slope by a deep ridge located over the lower slope. For very short periods (≲10 days), the forcing is a short distance to the south, which suggests that the TRWs are locally forced by features that have intruded upslope and that most likely have accompanied the Loop Current or a ring.

Corresponding author address: L.-Y. Oey, 14 Taunton Court, Princeton Junction, NJ 08550. Email: lyo@princeton.edu

Abstract

In contrast to the Loop Current and rings, much less is known about deep eddies (deeper than 1000 m) of the Gulf of Mexico. In this paper, results from a high-resolution numerical model of the Gulf are analyzed to explain their origin and how they excite topographic Rossby waves (TRWs) that disperse energy to the northern slopes of the Gulf. It is shown that north of Campeche Bank is a fertile ground for the growth of deep cyclones by baroclinic instability of the Loop Current. The cyclones have horizontal (vertical) scales of about 100 km (1000∼2000 m) and swirl speeds ∼0.3 m s−1. The subsequent development of these cyclones consists of two modes, A and B. Mode-A cyclones evolve into the relatively well-known frontal eddies that propagate around the Loop Current. Mode-A cyclone can amplify off the west Florida slope and cause the Loop Current to develop a “neck” that sometimes leads to shedding of a ring; this process is shown to be the Loop Current’s dominant mode of upper-to-deep variability. Mode-B cyclones are “shed” and propagate west-northwestward at speeds of about 2–6 km day−1, often in concert with an expanding loop or a migrating ring. TRWs are produced through wave–eddy coupling originating primarily from the cyclone birthplace as well as from the mode-B cyclones, and second, but for longer periods of 20∼30 days only, also from the mode-A frontal eddies. The waves are “channeled” onto the northern slope by a deep ridge located over the lower slope. For very short periods (≲10 days), the forcing is a short distance to the south, which suggests that the TRWs are locally forced by features that have intruded upslope and that most likely have accompanied the Loop Current or a ring.

Corresponding author address: L.-Y. Oey, 14 Taunton Court, Princeton Junction, NJ 08550. Email: lyo@princeton.edu

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