What do you know about the loop current in the Gulf of Mexico?

Satellite image of Hurricane Rita on September 22, 2005. Rita strengthened over the ring's current.

Satellite image of Hurricane Rita on September 22, 2005. Rita strengthened over the ring’s current.
picture: NOAA (Getty Images)

TNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration He said .this week It is likely that we will again be in a very active hurricane season. As global warming increases ocean temperatures and the potential for bigger and more severe storms, an unknown current in the Gulf of Mexico may be preparing to wreak some havoc.

An annular current is a stream of water that flows into the Gulf of Mexico, and is formed when Warm water from the Caribbean Crosses north towards Gulf mouth. Brad Panovich said, chave mA meteorologist at WCNC Charlotte in North Carolina. “This little elbow goes up into the Gulf of Mexico, and it becomes a loop, as if you had a piece of string and there’s a loop in it.”

Unlike a lot of other bay areas, where there is a shallow layer of warm water on top of a cooler surface.Yes, the water in this stream is warm And the Deep, it sinks hundreds of feet into the depths of the ocean – which can help it intensify storms.

“If a hurricane passes over shallow water, it can use up all the warm water that is at the surface,” Panovich said. “With the annular current, because it’s so deep, there’s a lot of fuel for that storm, and it’s not as suffocated as with other waters.”

Stream movement is random, dictated by a combination of different factors such as salinity and water temperature as well as underlying fluid dynamics. But remarkably, the current Many Higher than usual in the Gulf this year. Some meteorologists have expressed concern about the distance to the north At this time of year. The current (unfortunate) situation and its behavior mimic the way it was set in 2005, when seven major hurricanes developed in the Atlantic, and three particularly strong – Katrina, Wilma, And Rita – evolved later jump up. or exceeded loop stream.

A contour map of sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico on May 26, 2022; the Loop Current is clearly visible in yellow at center right.

“It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the Gulf,” University of Miami oceanography professor Nick Shay the edge said.

Panovich cautioned against excessive panic over the Loop Current specifically – but combined with other factors, he said, it’s part of what could be a worrisome hurricane season.

Of all the things I’m worried about this season, [the Loop Current] “It’ll probably be a 5 or 6 down the list,” Panovich said. “It was kind of always there, and in real time it is more important than preseason. Obviously warm water is really important for hurricanes, but you still need a hurricane on top of it.”

One of the factors causing Banovich’s alarm: La Niña effect In play this season, which has the potential to create dry, warm conditions in the South, ideal for strengthening hurricanes. In 2005, the world was between El Niño and La Niña years, which means that the additional drivers of storms that these effects can produce were absent. Besides the warmer overall temperatures in the Gulf, Panovich said, The whole situation disturbing, Regardless of the current episode. “There are likely to be more storms over this warm water than there were in 2005,” he said. “The seasonal setting this year is on paper much worse than it was in 2005.”

Amid all the hype around the hurricane forecast, it’s important for people to remember to take precautions.

“Be prepared no matter what,” Panovich said. “We sometimes get caught up in seasonal forecasts. The number of storms, while important, increases your chances of being affected, but it only takes one storm to hit your city to make a bad season.”