Understanding the role of the ocean in spawning hurricanes may have taken a giant step forward with observations in tropical storm Anita last August.
Reporting on measurements made in the storm, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that the storm may have drawn part of its power from a pool of warm water in the Gulf of Mexico. This 225-km-wide eddy had been discovered a month before Anita by a NOAA oceanographic ship. It appears to have started with a break-off of the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current. Coordinated sea and air measurements during the tropical storm showed that ‘the disturbance intensified steadily to tropical storm strength as it moved toward the center of the warm eddy,’ according to NOAA oceanographer John Proni. ‘Then, about 18 hours later, a deepening trend in central pressure began as the storm passed the western boundary of the eddy. Anita reached hurricane force a short time later.’