Observations and Operational Model Simulations Reveal the Impact of Hurricane Matthew (2016) on the Gulf Stream and Coastal Sea Level
Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans
In October 7–9, 2016, Hurricane Matthew moved along the southeastern coast of the U.S., causing major flooding and significant damage, even to locations farther north well away from the storm’s winds. Various observations, such as tide gauge data, cable measurements of the Florida Current (FC) transport, satellite altimeter data and high-frequency radar data, were analyzed to evaluate the impact of the storm. The data show a dramatic decline in the FC flow and increased coastal sea level along the U.S. coast. Weakening of the Gulf Stream (GS) downstream from the storm’s area contributed to high coastal sea levels farther north. Analyses of simulations of an operational hurricane-ocean coupled model reveal the disruption that the hurricane caused to the GS flow, including a decline in transport of ∼20 Sv (1 Sv = 106 m3 s−1). In comparison, the observed FC reached a maximum transport of ∼40 Sv before the storm on September 10 and a minimum of ∼20 Sv after the storm on October 12. The hurricane impacts both the geostrophic part of the GS and the wind-driven currents, generating inertial oscillations with velocities of up to ±1 m s−1. Analysis of the observed FC transport since 1982 indicated that the magnitude of the current weakening in October 2016 was quite rare (outside 3 standard deviations from the mean). Such a large FC weakening in the past occurred more often in October and November, but is extremely rare in June-August. Similar impacts on the FC from past tropical storms and hurricanes suggest that storms may contribute to seasonal and interannual variations in the FC. The results also demonstrated the extended range of coastal impacts that remote storms can cause through their influence on ocean currents.
Original Publication Citation
Ezer, T., L. P. Atkinson and R. Tuleya (2017). Observations and operational model simulations reveal the impact of Hurricane Matthew (2016) on the Gulf Stream and coastal sea level. Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans, 80, 124-138. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dynatmoce.2017.10.006 .
Ezer, Tal; Atkinson, Larry P.; and Tuleya, Robert, "Observations and Operational Model Simulations Reveal the Impact of Hurricane Matthew (2016) on the Gulf Stream and Coastal Sea Level" (2017). CCPO Publications. 212.
0000-0002-2018-6071 (Ezer), 0000-0003-2919-100X (Atkinson)