Loop current cycle: Coupled response of the loop current with deep flows

Y. L. Chang, L. Y. Oey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Although the upper-layer dynamics of the Loop Current and eddies in the Gulf of Mexico are well studied, the understanding of how they are coupled to the deep flows is limited. In this work, results from a numerical model are analyzed to classify the expansion, shedding, retraction, and deep-coupling cycle (the Loop Current cycle) according to the vertical mass flux across the base of the Loop. StageAis the "Loop reforming" period, with downward flux and deep divergence under the Loop Current. Stage B is the "incipient shedding," with strong upward flux and deep convergence. Stage C is the "eddy migration," with waning upward flux and deep throughflow from the western Gulf into the Yucatan Channel. Because of the strong deep coupling between the eastern and western Gulf, the Loop's expansion is poorly correlated with deep flows through the Yucatan Channel. Stage A is longest and the mean vertical flux under the Loop Current is downward. Therefore, because the net circulation around the abyssal basin is zero, the abyssal gyre in the western Gulf is cyclonic. The gyre's strength is strongest when the Loop Current is reforming and weakest after an eddy is shed. The result suggests that the Loop Current cycle can force a low-frequency [time scales ~ shedding periods; O(months)] abyssal oscillation in the Gulf of Mexico.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-471
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Mar


  • Currents
  • Eddies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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