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Geophysical Monograph Series



  • Loop Current
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • circulation
  • observations
  • currents
  • oil spill

Index Terms

  • 4520 Oceanography: Physical: Eddies and mesoscale processes
  • 4562 Oceanography: Physical: Topographic/bathymetric interactions
  • 4512 Oceanography: Physical: Currents
  • 4223 Oceanography: General: Descriptive and regional oceanography



Loop Current Observations During Spring and Summer of 2010: Description and Historical Perspective

P. Hamilton

Science Applications International Corporation, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

K. A. Donohue

Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, Rhode Island, USA

R. R. Leben

Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

A. Lugo-Fernández

Environmental Sciences Section, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

R. E. Green

Environmental Sciences Section, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Arrays of moored current meters and bottom-mounted pressure-equipped inverted echo sounders centered near 26°N, 87°W were deployed in April 2009. Data were recovered via mooring rotation or telemetry in July and November 2010 and will ultimately be recovered in November 2011. Hence, the arrays measured circulation through the water column during the Deepwater Horizon oil discharge from mid-April to mid-July 2010. During this time, the observed circulation is dominated by the interaction between the Loop Current (LC) and Eddy Franklin. From a historical perspective, Eddy Franklin is notable for its deep intrusion into the northern Gulf, eddy size, and the significant subsequent retreat of the LC after initial detachment. Throughout the measurement time period, lower-layer flows are not visually coherent with upper-layer LC flows, and the mean circulation evinces a west-east pattern of an anticyclone-cyclone pair predicted by numerical models as the lower-layer response to a westward-propagating, upper-layer anticyclone. A marked increase in lower-layer kinetic energy in May is coincident with the development of a large-scale meander along the northern and eastern parts of the LC front. Lower-layer eddies develop in a pattern reminiscent of developing baroclinic instabilities. These growing and southward propagating meanders along the west Florida slope appear to be the major mechanism that causes Eddy Franklin to initially detach from the LC, in mid-June 2010, much in the way previously described using satellite observations.

Citation: Hamilton, P., K. A. Donohue, R. R. Leben, A. Lugo-Fernández, and R. E. Green (2011), Loop Current observations during spring and summer of 2010: Description and historical perspective, in Monitoring and Modeling the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Record-Breaking Enterprise, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 195, edited by Y. Liu et al., pp. 117–130, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2011GM001116.


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