Loop current growth and eddy shedding using models and observations: Analyses of the July 2011 eddy-shedding event

F. H. Xu, Y. L. Chang, L. Y. Oey*, P. Hamilton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies suggest that as the trade wind in the Caribbean Sea weakens from summer to fall, conditions become more favorable for the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico to shed an anticyclonic ring. This idea originated with observations showing a preference for more eddies from summer through fall, and it was confirmed using multidecadal model experiments. Here, the hypothesis is further tested by studying the dynamics of a specific eddy-shedding event in summer 2011 using a model experiment initialized with observation-assimilated reanalysis and forced by reanalysis wind from NCEP. Eddy shedding in July 2011 is shown to follow the weakening of the trade wind and Yucatan transport in late June. The shedding time is significantly earlier than can be explained based on reduced-gravity Rossby wave dynamics. Altimetry and model data are analyzed to show that empirical orthogonal function modes 1 1 2 dominate the reducedgravity process, while higher modes contain the coupling of the Loop Current with deep layer underneath. The Loop's westward expansion at incipient shedding induces a deep cyclonic gyre in the eastern Gulf, embedded within which are small cyclones caused by the baroclinic instability of the strongly sheared current north of the Campeche Bank. The associated deep upwelling and upper-layer divergence from these cyclonic circulations accelerate eddy shedding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1015-1027
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013 May


  • Eddies
  • Ocean dynamics
  • Ocean models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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