Mechanisms of the 40–70 Day Variability in the Yucatan Channel Volume Transport

René M. van Westen*, Henk A. Dijkstra, Roland Klees, Riccardo E.M. Riva, D. Cornelis Slobbe, Carine G. van der Boog, Caroline A. Katsman, Adam S. Candy, Julie D. Pietrzak, Marcel Zijlema, Rebecca K. James, Tjeerd J. Bouma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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The Yucatan Channel connects the Caribbean Sea with the Gulf of Mexico and is the main outflow region of the Caribbean Sea. Moorings in the Yucatan Channel show high-frequent variability in kinetic energy (50–100 days) and transport (20–40 days), but the physical mechanisms controlling this variability are poorly understood. In this study, we show that the short-term variability in the Yucatan Channel transport has an upstream origin and arises from processes in the North Brazil Current. To establish this connection, we use data from altimetry and model output from several high resolution global models. A significant 40–70 day variability is found in the sea surface height in the North Brazil Current retroflection region with a propagation toward the Lesser Antilles. The frequency of variability is generated by intrinsic processes associated with the shedding of eddies, rather than by atmospheric forcing. This sea surface height variability is able to pass the Lesser Antilles, it propagates westward with the background ocean flow in the Caribbean Sea and finally affects the variability in the Yucatan Channel volume transport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1286-1300
Number of pages15
JournalJournal Of Geophysical Research-Oceans
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Caribbean Sea
  • North Brazil Current
  • sea surface height variability
  • Yucatan Channel


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