Origin of the ‘Motion of the Ocean’ in the Straits of Florida Revealed
Ocean currents sometimes pinch off sections that create circular currents of water called “eddies.” This “whirlpool” motion moves nutrients to the water’s surface, playing a significant role in the health of the Florida Keys coral reef ecosystem.
Using a numerical model that simulates ocean currents, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and collaborators from the Alfred-Wegener-Institute in Germany and the Institut Universitaire Europeen De La Mer/Laboratoire d’Océonographie Physique et Spatiale in France are shedding light on this important “motion of the ocean.” They have conducted a first-of-its-kind study identifying the mechanisms behind the formation of sub-mesoscale eddies in the Straits of Florida, which have important environmental implications.
Despite the swift flow of the Florida Current, which flows in the Straits of Florida and connects the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf Stream in the Western Atlantic Ocean, eddies provide a mechanism for the retention of marine organisms such as fish and coral larvae. Since they trap the nutrient rich West Florida Shelf waters, they provide habitat to many reef and pelagic species within the region of the Florida Keys Reef Track, which sustains the very high productivity of this region.