Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

Marine Science

First Advisor

Subrahmanyam Bulusu

Abstract

Surface circulation in the Gulf of Mexico is dominated by the Loop Current System (LCS), including the Loop Current (LC) and its associated eddies. The Gulf of Mexico (GoM) also displays long-term surface gradients of temperature and salinity due to climatological features including the intrusion of warm, saline waters from the Caribbean Sea and the seasonal deposition of freshwater from the Mississippi River System caused by seasonal increases in snow melt and precipitation over the watershed. This research aims to increase the understanding of the LCS through the investigation of its relationship with these surface gradients. A classification system of LCS interaction with seasonallypresent freshwater is developed to explore how the LCS can deform salinity gradients within the Gulf. Surface advective freshwater flux is calculated by combining satellitederived measurements of sea level anomalies with sea surface salinity from the recent satellite salinity missions, ESA’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) and NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), in order to observe lateral movement of low-salinity water throughout the Gulf. Through interaction with the LCS, riverine-sourced freshwater can have numerous fates and redistribution patterns throughout the GoM.

The LCS shares the GoM surface with a large mesoscale eddy field, which is investigated through the application of an automatic eddy-tracking algorithm to absolute dynamic topography derived from satellite altimetry and sea surface height from HYbrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM) simulations. The spatial distribution and temporal evolution of eddy properties, as well as the variation of these surface and subsurface

properties between the eastern and western Gulf are analyzed. Surface eddy composite analysis reveals that long-term gradients present in the GoM greatly affect eddy salinity, temperature, and chlorophyll-a concentrations. HYCOM simulations are verified with insitu Argo profile data in order to investigate mean eddy vertical structure, which varies greatly between the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico. The classifications of LCS interaction with low-salinity water presented here offer a new explanation for the multiple fates of Mississippi River waters, and composite analysis of surface and subsurface eddy properties provides an innovative and complete picture of the GoM mesoscale eddy field.

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