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Journal of Geophysical Research

The variability of anticyclonic current patterns in the Gulf of Mexico


  • David W. Behringer,

  • Robert L. Molinari,

  • John F. Festa


A recent twofold increase in the number of temperature observations available in the Gulf of Mexico has prompted a reappraisal of several ideas regarding the temporal variability of the Loop Current in the eastern gulf and the anticyclonic gyre in the western gulf. The analysis includes both synoptic data drawn from 47 cruises in the eastern gulf and monthly maps of temperature at 200 m prepared from observations over the entire gulf. It is found that on average the penetration of the Loop Current into the gulf increases during the winter and spring, reaching a maximum in the early summer, at which time a large anticyclonic eddy probably separates from the loop. It is also found that there are substantial deviations from this average sequence of events; during the past dozen years the period between eddy separations has been as short as 8 months and as long as 17 months. The data coverage of the western gulf is sparse, but there is evidence for the year-round persistence of the anticyclonic gyre and some indications that the gyre may be strongest in summer and winter.

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