Hurricanes are tropical weather systems that play a significant role in the exchange of energy (heat) between the atmosphere and ocean. Sea surface temperature (SST) variability and mixed layer depth (MLD) modulates the intensity of tropical cyclones. TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) data corresponding to five hurricanes that traversed across the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and Caribbean Sea were analyzed for evaluating the response of upper-ocean parameters to passing hurricanes. Data on SST, rainfall, wind speed, and MLD (from HYCOM) were compared from pre- and post-storm conditions. Daily data from the satellites were extracted from TMI data archives (http://www.remss.com/missions/tmi/) and further averaged during the time of hurricanes traversing across the GOM. Pre-storm conditions were generated by averaging data from the immediate days before hurricanes entering the GOM. Fast-moving Hurricane Charley cooled the West Florida Shelf by merely ~ 0.5°C, while Hurricane Ivan came through the following month as a much larger and slow-moving storm and a cooling impact up to 2°C. SST cooling from Hurricane Ivan extended over a wider region covering most of eastern GOM. The following year, Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma caused substantial ocean surface cooling with an observed maximum of 3.8°C. Precipitation from the hurricanes also exceeded 2.5-3.0 mm/hr, particularly along the right side of the hurricane path. Wind speed distribution showed significant spatial variability with maximum winds observed along the eastern side of the tracks. MLD data extracted from HYCOM model archives also responded dynamically to the passing hurricanes with the cooling extended to more than 100 m water depth after a major hurricane.
As the Gulf of Mexico has experienced major environmental hazards in the recent past, e.g. the BP oil spill in 2010, landfall of major hurricanes, and the frequent outbreak of red tide (Karenia brevis), it is required to evaluate possible alterations in the water quality and biogeochemical balance of this partially enclosed waterbody. Chlorophyll concentrations (Chl-a) and sea surface temperature (SST) Level-2 data from five satellites during the period from 2009 to 2013 were analyzed for their spatial, temporal, and inter-annual variability. Based on the evaluation of data from 24 transects from the West Florida Shelf (WFS), highest Chl-a was observed for the sector from St. Petersburg to Sanibel Island. Additionally, high Chl-a was observed for the Big Bend region, particularly during the spring and early summer. SST distribution also closely followed Chl-a distribution, even though occasional uptick in SST values were noticed from the inner continental shelf even during high primary productivity. Furthermore, between 2010 and 2011, monthly Chl-a and SST varied across the shelf significantly and can be due to the incursion of the Loop Current towards the WFS, as suggested by Weisberg et al. (2014).