Simulating the dynamics and intensification of cyclonic Loop Current Frontal Eddies in the Gulf of Mexico

Matthieu Le Hénaff, Vassiliki H. Kourafalou, Yves Morel, Ashwanth Srinivasan

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59 Scopus citations


The dynamics associated with the Loop Current (LC) variability in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) are studied using a 5-year, free-running numerical simulation with the Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM). The dynamics of major GoM circulation features are represented: the extension of the LC and the associated anticyclonic, warm core Loop Current Eddies (LCEs) and cyclonic Loop Current Frontal Eddies (LCFEs). The study focuses on the dynamics of the LCFEs and their role during the LCEs shedding, which dramatically affects the GoM circulation. We analyze several characteristics of the LC frontal dynamics. Modeled LCFEs have a coherent vertical structure, which extends to the deep layers of the GoM. They may split in two separate upper and lower layer eddies. Deep and surface remnants from different frontal eddies are able to align to form new, coherent structures. LCFEs intensify along the extended LC northern edge when flowing over the deep northern GoM shelf slope that forms the Mississippi Fan, through a "promontory effect" in which the incoming cyclone aggregates positive potential vorticity anomalies in lower layers, leading to the intensification of the whole vortex structure. LCFEs may also expand further along the LC path by horizontal vortex merging, when they are blocked between the LC and the northeast corner of the continental shelf in the GoM. The intensification and merging due to topographic effects explain the enlarged frontal eddies observed on the eastern side of the Loop Current. These larger eddies further migrate along the LC front and may play a role in the shedding sequence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberC02034
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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