How is the Loop Current Tied to Atlantic Hurricane Intensity? (credit: Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz)
DISCUSSION: During the course of a given Tropical Atlantic hurricane season, there are a number of different factors (i.e., both ocean-based and atmosphere-based) which meteorologists will closely monitor. This is due to the fact that with even slight changes in the state of many of these different environmental conditions, there can often be quite substantial changes in the propensity for tropical cyclones to form and/or intensity while moving across different parts of the Tropical Atlantic as just one oceanic basin which will be used as a singular example here. As shown in the graphic attached above (courtesy of the University Center for Atmospheric and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), you can see a specific oceanic current being depicted here. This ocean current which is known as the Loop Current is effectively a northward extension of the Caribbean Current and the current which later transitions into what are known as the Straits of Florida and eventually becoming the Gulf Stream.
However, across the central and eastern portions of the Gulf of Mexico, the Loop Current will often have one or more "Loop eddies" break away from the main Loop Current just to the east. "Loop eddies" refer to much smaller rotating/pivoting ocean sub-current which allow more isolated areas of warmer upper-ocean water to meander a relatively short distance away from the main Loop Current which will most often gradually progress to the east with time. Due to this factor, when developing tropical storms, intensifying hurricanes, or even mature hurricanes pass over either the Loop Current and/or "Loop eddies", they are quite often given an intensity boost or size boost. This is a result of a given tropical cyclone benefiting from the substantially warmer sea-surface temperatures helping to provide additional fuel for a blossoming tropical storm. Hence, whenever there is a tropical cyclone threat during the late Summer to early Fall time-frame in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico, there are often heightened concerns when it comes to nearby tropical storms with the looming presence of the Loop Current.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz