The Best Florida Keys Current Guide
I want to talk about something that has caught my attention lately – the sustained ripping current in Florida Keys.
The Florida Keys Current Influences
The Florida Keys, located at the southern tip of Florida, are influenced by two significant currents: the Loop Current and the Florida Current. Understanding how these currents operate is crucial to comprehending the movement of water in the nearshore and offshore waters off the Florida Keys and learning how fish migrate through the Florida Keys.
What is the Loop Current?
As its name suggests, the Loop Current forms a loop-like shape as it flows through the Gulf of Mexico. Originating from the Caribbean Sea, it passes through the Yucatán Peninsula and enters the Gulf of Mexico. The Loop Current is known for its high speeds and is one of the fastest currents in the Atlantic Ocean. It moves clockwise, transporting warm tropical waters into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Loop Current plays a crucial role in the Gulf Stream system, a powerful and swift warm ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and flows along the eastern coast of the United States. As the Loop Current approaches the Florida Keys, it can influence water movement in the nearshore and offshore areas. When the Loop Current comes close to the Keys, it can cause an influx of warm water, affecting the water temperature and marine life in the region.
What is the Florida Current?
On the other hand, the Florida Current flows offshore of the Florida Keys towards the north along the eastern coast of Florida. This current carries the warm tropical waters brought by the Loop Current. The Florida Current starts from the Straits of Florida, wraps around the Florida Peninsula, and continues along the southeastern coast. It follows the shallow continental slope between the Straits of Florida and Cape Hatteras.
The Florida Current is a vital component of the Gulf Stream system and contributes to the overall circulation in the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean. It transports heat and influences the region’s temperature and salinity distribution. The warm waters of the Florida Current significantly impact the climate and marine ecosystems of the southeastern United States, including the Florida Keys.
Both the Loop Current and the Florida Current play essential roles in the coastal dynamics of the Florida Keys. Their interaction with other oceanographic features, such as eddies and upwelling events, can influence the movement of water, nutrient distribution, and the overall health of the marine environment in the region. Understanding these currents is crucial for studying the circulation patterns and ecological processes that shape the waters surrounding the Florida Keys.
South Florida Heat and Florida Keys Offshore and Nearshore Currents
It has been a hot summer in the Florida Keys. As the heat index continued to rise, I also noticed a correlation between the increase in water temperatures through SATFISH SST charts in the Gulf of Mexico and an increase in the Florida Keys current velocity nearshore and offshore. I initially thought this was just temporary, but I was wrong. When I returned from my short vacation on the 4th of July, I was surprised to find that the nearshore current had intensified and continued to be strong throughout the rest of the month and into August.
I read an interesting study by Hamilton et al. (2019) that explains how the loop current’s velocity can increase with warmer water. The researchers found that for every degree Celsius increase in temperature, the loop current’s speed can increase by several centimeters per second. When this happens, the warmer water becomes buoyant and rises, accelerating the water flow. The heating of the loop current significantly impacts its speed and movement. As the loop current absorbs heat from the Gulf of Mexico, it warms up, and this increased temperature leads to an expansion of the water volume; the result is a decrease in density, making the water less dense than the surrounding water.
It’s interesting to note that typically, we see a lot of rain and storms in the Gulf of Mexico during July and August. Still, this summer, we have seen very little rain or cloud cover in the Gulf of Mexico, which has not cooled deeper surface waters as usual. Colder temperatures and lower wind speeds are associated with slower current velocities and reduced transport.
The Loop Current Position and its Influence on The Florida Current Speed
Variations in the speed and position of the Loop Current can impact the flow rate of the Florida Current. When the Loop Current extends further into the Gulf of Mexico, it can enhance the speed of the Florida Current, leading to increased transport of warm water and nutrients along the eastern coast of Florida. Conversely, changes in the intensity and position of the Loop Current can also result in a reduction in the speed of the Florida Current. Factors such as wind speed and temperature can influence the strength and direction of ocean currents, including the Florida Current. Various factors, including solar radiation, air-sea heat exchanges, and the inflow of warm water from the Caribbean Sea, influence the heating of the loop current. These factors contribute to forming eddies and meander within the loop current, further enhancing its speed and complexity.
It is important to note that other factors, such as wind patterns, tides, and the overall circulation of the Gulf of Mexico, can also influence the speed of the loop current. The interaction between these various factors creates a dynamic and ever-changing current system.Understanding the relationship between heating and the speed of the loop current is crucial for predicting Florida ocean circulation patterns and pelagic fish migrations.
Don’t Listen to National News Media
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- Hamilton, P. et al. (2019) Impacts of Loop Current Temperature Variability on Deepwater Horizon Oil Transport Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 124(12), 8944-8962.