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Impact of ocean eddies on the hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico

  • Room 112, O&M Building (map)


Sea surface temperature (SST) and upper ocean heat content (HC) are the two most important oceanic factors influencing the development and intensification of hurricanes. In the Gulf of Mexico, warm anticyclonic oceanic eddies with higher SST and HC than the surroundings, are believed to be instrumental in the rapid intensification (increase in sustained wind speed by 30 knots or above, in a 24 hour period) of hurricanes as seen with hurricane Opal in 1995 and Katrina in 2005. This study aims at documenting the eddy properties in the Gulf of Mexico and exploring the relationship between eddies and hurricanes in this region for the 1993-2010 period where there were several intense hurricanes. An eddy tracking algorithm has been applied to the satellite altimetry dataset to study the eddy properties. Eddy tracking results were used in conjunction with the best track hurricane dataset for exploring the impact of eddies on hurricanes. Experiments using an idealized coupled model, which has a WRF atmospheric component and a ROMS ocean component, were also employed to study the effect of eddies on hurricane intensification.