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Haosheng Huang
,
Nan D. Walker
,
Ya Hsueh
,
Yi Chao
, and
Robert R. Leben

Abstract

The Loop Current frontal eddies (LCFEs) refer to cyclonic cold eddies moving downstream along the outside edge of the Loop Current in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. They have been observed by in situ measurements and satellite imagery, mostly downstream of the Campeche Bank continental shelf. Their evolution, simulated by a primitive equation ⅙° and 37-level Atlantic Ocean general circulation numerical model, is described in detail in this study. Some of the simulated LCFEs arise, with the passage through the Yucatan Channel of a Caribbean anticyclonic eddy, as weak cyclones with diameters less than 100 km near the Yucatan Channel. They then grow to fully developed eddies with diameters on the order of 150–200 km while moving along the Loop Current edge. Modeled LCFEs have a very coherent vertical structure with isotherm doming seen from 50- to ~1000-m depth. The Caribbean anticyclone and LCFE are two predominant features in this numerical model simulation, which account for 22% and 10%, respectively, of the short-term (period less than 100 days) temperature variance at 104.5 m in the complex empirical orthogonal function (CEOF) analysis. The source water inside the LCFEs that are generated by Caribbean anticyclonic eddy impingement can be traced back, using a backward-in-time Lagrangian particle-tracking method, to the western edge of the Caribbean Current in the northwest Caribbean Sea and to coastal waters near the northern Yucatan Peninsula. The model results indicating a pairing of anticyclonic and cyclonic eddies within and north of the Yucatan Channel are supported by satellite altimetry measurements during February 2002 when several altimeters were operational.

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