Recent studies on Loop Current's variability in the Gulf of Mexico suggest that the system may behave with some regularity forced by the biannually varying trade winds. The process is analyzed here using a reduced-gravity model and satellite data. The model shows that a biannual signal is produced by vorticity and transport fluctuations in the Yucatan Channel because of the piling up and retreat of warm water in the northwestern Caribbean Sea forced by the biannually varying trade wind. The Loop grows and expands with increased northward velocity and cyclonic vorticity of the Yucatan Current, and eddies are shed when these are near minima. Satellite sea surface height (SSH) data from 1993 to 2010 are analyzed. These show, consistent with the reduced-gravity experiments and previous studies, a (statistically) significant asymmetric biannual variation of the growth and wane of Loop Current: strong from summer to fall and weaker from winter to spring; the asymmetry being due to the asymmetry that also exists in the long-term observed wind. The biannual signal is contained in the two leading EOF modes, which together explain 47% of the total variance, and which additionally describe the eddy shedding and westward propagation from summer to fall. The EOFs also show connectivity between Loop Current and Caribbean Sea's variability by mass and vorticity fluxes through the Yucatan Channel.
ASJC Scopus subject areas