The Gulf of Mexico (GoM) surface circulation variability is dominated by the Loop Current (LC) and the episodically released anticyclonic Loop Current eddies (LCEs). The Yucatan Current feeds the LC through the Yucatan Channel (YC), and its flow structure at the YC is hypothesized to affect the LC evolution critically. This study examines the impact of assimilating YC subsurface velocity observations from a tall mooring array across the YC on the GoM circulation. State estimates and forecasts of the LC circulation were produced using a regional implementation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology general circulation model (MITgcm) and its adjoint-based four-dimensional variational (4DVAR) assimilation system. The estimates were constrained by combinations of the YC observations and satellite-derived sea surface height (SSH) and sea surface temperature (SST). The results show that assimilation of both moored and satellite data improves the model hindcasts and forecasts for all LC phases. Additionally, one realization of the state estimate that assimilates only moored data matches the LCE detachment timing with that of AVISO SSH. Observations from the moorings close to the Yucatan Peninsula significantly impact the LCE detachment. A finite-time Lyapunov exponent analysis reveals the differences among the assimilation experiments, such as eddylike structures intruding into the GoM through the YC, and its relation to the typical LC sudden growth. Finally, an adjoint sensitivity analysis is used to verify the dynamic link between the LC extension and the intrusion of eddylike structures into the GoM.
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