Skeptical Science

Waters with excessive warmth content material anticipated in Gulf of Mexico this hurricane season

Sharing is caring!

Waters with high heat content expected in Gulf of Mexico this hurricane season

Posted on 30 Could 2022 by Visitor Creator

This can be a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jeff Masters

Potential bother is brewing within the Gulf of Mexico for the approaching Atlantic hurricane season: waters with a excessive quantity of warmth vitality. Sea floor temperatures (SSTs) in mid-Could have been 27-28 levels Celsius (81-82° F) throughout many of the Gulf, 0.5 to 1.5 levels Celsius (0.9-2.7°F) above the 1981-2010 common. That’s numerous warmth vitality for potential hurricanes to feast on.

What’s extra, the Gulf waters have the potential to be at close to record-warm ranges through the peak a part of hurricane season, if the southeastern U.S. will get a sustained warmth wave that brings mild winds and scorching situations to the Gulf for an prolonged interval. (The primary half of Could was record-warm for Galveston, Texas, which contributed to the unusually heat ocean temperatures off the Texas coast.)

However sea floor temperatures don’t inform the entire story. When a hurricane traverses a shallow space of heat ocean waters, its highly effective winds will churn up chilly waters from the depths, cooling the floor and placing the brakes on any speedy intensification the hurricane might have had. However when unusually heat ocean waters lengthen to nice depth, 100 meters or extra beneath the floor, the hurricane’s churning winds merely fire up extra heat water, permitting harmful speedy intensification to happen if wind shear is low. Thus, whole Ocean Warmth Content material (OHC) is a key metric used to find out the potential for hurricane speedy intensification. And sadly, given the current ocean present configuration, there shall be excessive ocean warmth content material within the Gulf of Mexico this hurricane season.

Figure 1Determine 1. Ocean present speeds (cm/s, colours) at 0Z Could 17, 2022 as analyzed by the Navy HYCOM mannequin. Arrows present the route of the present. The quickest currents have been related to the Loop Present, which was flowing northward from the Western Caribbean into the east-central Gulf of Mexico, earlier than looping again to the southeast and flowing to the south of Florida. A heat eddy that broke off from the Loop Present in 2021 (which helped gas the speedy intensification of Hurricane Ida on August 29, 2021) has drifted west to a place about 200 miles south of western Louisiana. (Picture credit score: Navy Research Lab)

Meet the Loop Present

Within the Gulf of Mexico, the deepest heat water is discovered within the Loop Present—an ocean present that transports heat Caribbean water by the Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico. The present flows northward into the Gulf of Mexico, loops southeastward simply south of the Florida Keys (the place it’s known as the Florida Present), after which goes simply west of the westernmost Bahamas. There, the waters of the Loop Present circulate northward alongside the U.S. coast and develop into the Gulf Stream.

With speeds of about 1.8 mph (0.8 m/s), the Loop Present is without doubt one of the quickest currents within the Atlantic Ocean. The present is about 200-300 km (125-190 miles) huge and 800 meters (2,600 ft) deep, and is current within the Gulf of Mexico about 95% of the time. Throughout summer time and fall, the Loop Present supplies a deep (80-150 meter) layer of very heat water that may present an enormous vitality supply so hurricanes can develop into quickly intensifying main hurricanes.

The Loop Present generally bulges out within the northern Gulf of Mexico and typically will shed a clockwise rotating ring of heat water that separates from the principle present. This ring of heat water slowly drifts west-southwestward towards Texas or Mexico at two to a few miles per day. This function—known as a “Loop Present ring”, “Loop Present eddy”, or “heat core ring”—can present a key supply of vitality to gas speedy intensification of hurricanes that cross the Gulf (along with the Loop Present itself). The Loop Present pulsates in a quasi-regular style and sheds rings each six to 11 months. When a Loop Present eddy breaks off within the Gulf of Mexico on the peak of hurricane season, it may well result in a harmful state of affairs with an enormous reservoir of vitality obtainable to any hurricane that crosses over. Examination of the most recent mid-Could 2022 Loop Present imagery (Determine 1) reveals a serious bulge within the present, which is bringing a big space of water with excessive ocean warmth content material to the Gulf. This bulge seems poised to interrupt off into a major heat eddy this summer time, which might give the Gulf with loads of deep, heat water to gas any hurricanes that get unfastened there.

Loop Present eddies have helped gas speedy intensification of 4 hurricanes which have develop into among the many prime 20 costliest climate disasters in world historical past. Probably the most well-known Loop Present eddy separated in July 2005. A month later, Hurricane Katrina handed over the eddy and “bombed” right into a class 5 hurricane, inflicting damages estimated at $182 billion—the costliest climate catastrophe in recorded historical past. The eddy remained within the Gulf and slowly drifted westward throughout September. Hurricane Rita handed over the identical eddy three weeks after Katrina, and it too explosively deepened to a class 5 storm. Rita’s $27 billion in damages made it the 19th-costliest climate catastrophe in world historical past.

In 2021, a major Loop Present eddy started breaking off in July, a month earlier than Hurricane Ida moved over the Gulf. Whereas shifting over the Loop Present and the growing Loop Present eddy in late August, Ida quickly intensified right into a devastating Class 4 hurricane that ravaged Louisiana, finally deluging the northeastern U.S. with catastrophic rains. Between its Gulf Coast impacts and its northeastern rampage, Ida brought about $75 billion in injury (2022 {dollars}), making it the fifth-costliest climate catastrophe in recorded historical past, and took 107 lives, together with 87 in america. The eddy that powered Ida continues to be within the Gulf, having drifted westward to a place about 200 miles south of the western Louisiana as of mid-Could.

Even a Loop Present eddy indifferent from the Loop Present for greater than a 12 months can nonetheless present a potent supply of warmth vitality for a hurricane. Hurricane Harvey in 2017 was fueled by an previous Loop Present eddy that had migrated to the coast of Texas, a full 16 months after it had damaged off from the Loop Present. This warmth vitality contributed to Hurricane Harvey’s file rains, which did $141 billion in injury—the second costliest recorded climate catastrophe. In a 2018 paper, Hurricane Harvey Links to Ocean Heat Content and Climate Change Adaptation, Kevin Trenberth of the Nationwide Middle for Atmospheric Analysis, NCAR, concluded: “The underside line is that the overall noticed Ocean Warmth Content material (OHC) change is remarkably appropriate with the overall vitality launched by precipitation and, unsurprisingly, displays robust vitality exchanges through the hurricane. Accordingly, the file excessive OHC values not solely elevated the latent warmth which fueled the storm itself, possible rising its measurement and depth, but in addition possible contributed considerably to the flooding brought on by rainfall on land. The implication is that if the OHC had been much less, then the rainfall quantities would even have been much less.”

Figure 2 Ocean heat contentDetermine 2. A comparability of Ocean Warmth Content material (OHC) ranges within the Western Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico in 2021 and in 2022. OHC ranges are larger in 2022 than in 2021; values in extra of 90 kJ per sq. centimeter (yellow colours) are sometimes related to speedy intensification of hurricanes. Picture credit score: College of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

The way forward for the Loop Present

Excessive-resolution local weather and ocean mannequin research predict that the ocean present system that drives the Loop Present, the Atlantic Meridional Ocean Present (AMOC), will sluggish by 20-25% by 2100. Within the Gulf of Mexico, the result’s predicted to be a weakening of the Loop Present and the related heat eddies (although these heat eddies are predicted to interrupt off extra steadily). Because of this, the big eddies within the central Gulf with deep, heat water which have fueled the speedy intensification of a number of hurricanes over the Gulf of Mexico in latest a long time, mustn’t have as a lot warmth content material sooner or later. Nonetheless, sea floor temperatures (SSTs) throughout many of the Gulf of Mexico are predicted to heat by greater than 1.5 levels Celsius (2.7°F) by the tip of the century, in comparison with the Nineteen Nineties (Determine 3), beneath a reasonable international warming state of affairs (RCP 4.5). These hotter floor waters shall be fairly able to supporting speedy intensification of hurricanes with out the presence of a heat Loop Present eddy.

If the typical wind pace close to the floor of the tropical oceans doesn’t change, the wind speeds in hurricanes are anticipated to extend about 5% for each one diploma Celsius improve in tropical ocean temperature (Emanuel, 1987). Pc fashions assign a barely smaller magnitude (4%) for the rise (Knutson and Tuleya, 2004), and a 12% improve in rainfall price (inside 100 km of the middle). A 5% improve in hurricane winds equates to a couple of 50% improve in harmful potential, in keeping with NOAA. Thus, the theoretical 10% improve in hurricane winds for the two levels Celsius improve in SST predicted for a lot of the Gulf of Mexico by 2100 would improve hurricane injury potential by greater than an element of two—with out contemplating the added injury due to the long run local weather’s larger sea ranges (from sea-level rise) and extra intense rainfall (from larger ranges of water vapor). Throw into that blend any improve in inhabitants and wealth in danger in hurricane-vulnerable areas.

Figure 3 Sea surface temperature changeDetermine 3. Predicted distinction in sea floor temperature (SST) between the late twenty first century (2090 ~ 2098) and late twentieth century (1990 ~ 1998) for August-September-October, beneath a reasonable international warming state of affairs (RCP 4.5). Modeling was carried out utilizing the high-resolution NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) Modular Ocean Mannequin model 4.1 (MOM4), fed with information from 18 CMIP5 fashions. (Picture credit score: Liu et al., 2015, Potential impact of climate change on the Intra-Americas Sea: Part-1. A dynamic downscaling of the CMIP5 model projections, Journal of Marine Methods 148 (2015), 56–69)

Furthermore, as a result of the eddies within the Gulf of Mexico are predicted to develop into much less energetic, there may be more likely to be much less mixing of the ocean, permitting the shallow floor waters close to the coast to decouple from the deeper waters away from the coast. This decoupling will probably permit the shallow floor waters (these lower than 200 meters deep) to expertise dramatic warming in the summertime months, because the land heats up extra strongly than the ocean, and there shall be no mechanism to hold the warmth accrued within the floor waters out into the deeper waters. The high-resolution ocean mannequin proven in Determine 3 predicts that the Gulf Coast waters of Florida might heat by greater than 2.5 levels Celsius (4.5°F). This case would favor speedy intensification of hurricanes about to make landfall alongside the coast—a harmful eventuality, since speedy intensification simply earlier than landfall can shock an unprepared inhabitants until correct evacuations have been carried out. Over the previous 30 years, although, the sample of ocean warming within the Gulf (Determine 4) doesn’t resemble the one predicted by 2100.

Figure 4 30-year change in sea surface temperatureDetermine 4. Noticed 30-year change in sea floor temperature (SST) from 1987-1991 to 2017-2021, utilizing the NOAA OI SST dataset. A lot of the Gulf of Mexico warmed by 0.5-1.0 diploma Celsius (0.9-1.8°F). (Picture credit score: NOAA)

Sadly, local weather fashions could also be underestimating the speed of improve of ocean temperatures within the Gulf of Mexico: Analysis revealed in 2021 (Observation-based early-warning signals for a collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) discovered that the Atlantic Meridional Ocean Present might already be near a vital transition level, and its predicted 20-25% slowdown by 2100 might be considerably underestimated. A extra speedy slowdown might result in larger ocean temperatures within the Gulf of Mexico than the fashions are presently calling for.


Oceanographer Nick Shay of the College of Miami revealed a superb article on Could 18 in The Conversation discussing the Loop Present outlook for the 2022 hurricane season. One attention-grabbing level he makes: “One other pattern we’ve got been noticing is that the Loop Present’s heat eddies have extra warmth than we noticed 10 to fifteen years in the past. Whether or not that’s associated to international warming isn’t clear but, however the influence of a warming pattern might be devastating.”

The conduct of the Loop Present over the previous 12 months may be considered on the Navy Research Lab’s web site, together with photographs with shade coding representing the peak of the ocean floor above imply stage. The upper the peak, the hotter the water (since heat water expands and thus raises the ocean stage the place it’s).

A 1998 paper revealed within the Journal of Bodily Oceanography titled, Loop Current Eddy Paths in the Western Gulf of Mexico supplies helpful technical data on Loop Eddies.

First tropical wave of the 12 months inflicting forecast challenges

The primary tropical wave of the 12 months, which emerged from the coast of Africa final week, was exiting the coast of Colombia and coming into the central Caribbean on Tuesday afternoon. This wave is anticipated to work together with a big space of low stress (a Central American Gyre, or CAG) over the western Caribbean late this week, probably resulting in the formation of a tropical cyclone by early subsequent week within the western Caribbean or Japanese Pacific. The GFS mannequin has been stubbornly insisting on growth within the western Caribbean, with a storm that reaches hurricane energy coming into the Gulf of Mexico subsequent week. Nonetheless, our different dependable fashions for hurricane genesis, the European and UKMET, have been favoring the Japanese Pacific as being a extra possible place for genesis. It seems unlikely {that a} tropical cyclone will type within the western Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico subsequent week, significantly given the forecasts of excessive wind shear from a few of the fashions. Hurricane scientists @AndyHazelton and @webberweather have been doing wonderful posts on Twitter on the evolving forecasts for this case. UPDATE: The 6Z and 12Z Wednesday, Could 18, runs of the GFS mannequin not developed a system within the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico. The tropical wave will carry heavy rains to Central America over the weekend, nonetheless.

Bob Henson contributed to this submit.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

20 + seven =

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

You may also like

Read More