Mixed layer cooling in mesoscale oceanic eddies during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

Benjamin Jaimes, Lynn K. Shay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


During favorable atmospheric conditions, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita deepened to category 5 over the Loop Current's (LC) bulge associated with an amplifying warm core eddy. Both hurricanes subsequently weakened to category 3 after passing over a cold core eddy (CCE) prior to making landfall. Reduced (increased) oceanic mixed layer (OML) cooling of;1°C (4.5°C) was observed over the LC (CCE) where the storms rapidly deepened (weakened). Data acquired during and subsequent to the passage of both hurricanes indicate that the modulated velocity response in these geostrophic features was responsible for the contrasts in the upper-ocean cooling levels. For similar wind forcing, the OML velocity response was about 2 times larger inside the CCE that interacted with Katrina than in the LC region affected by Rita, depending on the prestorm OML thickness. Hurricane-induced upwelling and vertical mixing were increased (reduced) in the CCE (LC). Less wind-driven kinetic energy was available to increase vertical shears for entrainment cooling in the LC, as the OML current response was weaker and energy was largely radiated into the thermocline. Estimates of downward vertical radiation of near-inertial wave energies were significantly stronger in the LC (12.1 × 10-2 W m-2) than in the CCE (1.8 × 10-2 W m-2). Katrina and Rita winds provided O(1010)Wto the global internal wave power. The vertical mixing induced by both storms was confined to the surface water mass. From a broader perspective, models must capture oceanic features to reproduce the differentiated hurricane-induced OML cooling to improve hurricane intensity forecasting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4188-4207
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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