Hurricane interaction with the upper ocean in the Amazon-Orinoco plume region

Yannis Androulidakis, Vassiliki Kourafalou, George Halliwell, Matthieu Le Hénaff, Heesook Kang, Michael Mehari, Robert Atlas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The evolution of three successive hurricanes (Katia, Maria, and Ophelia) is investigated over the river plume area formed by the Amazon and Orinoco river outflows during September of 2011. The study focuses on hurricane impacts on the ocean structure and the ocean feedback influencing hurricane intensification. High-resolution (1/25° × 1/25° horizontal grid) numerical simulations of the circulation in the extended Atlantic Hurricane Region (Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and Northwest Atlantic Ocean) were used to investigate the upper ocean response during the three hurricane-plume interaction cases. The three hurricanes revealed different evolution and intensification characteristics over an area covered by brackish surface waters. The upper ocean response to the hurricane passages over the plume affected region showed high variability due to the interaction of oceanic and atmospheric processes. The existence of a barrier layer (BL), formed by the offshore spreading of brackish waters, probably facilitated intensification of the first storm (Hurricane Katia) because the river-induced BL enhanced the resistance of the upper ocean to cooling. This effect was missing in the subsequent two hurricanes (Maria and Ophelia) as the eroded BL (due to Katia passage) allowed the upper ocean cooling to be increased. As a consequence, the amount of ocean thermal energy provided to these storms was greatly reduced, which acted to limit intensification. Numerical experiments and analyses, in tandem with observational support, lead to the conclusion that the presence of a river plume-induced BL is a strong factor in the ocean conditions influencing hurricane intensification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1559-1588
Number of pages30
JournalOcean Dynamics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Amazon-Orinoco plume
  • Atlantic hurricane region
  • Barrier layer
  • Hurricane intensification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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