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What is the 'Loop Current' and how does it affect hurricanes in the Gulf?

The Loop Current is an area of warm water that travels up from the Caribbean, past the Yucatan Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico.

NEW ORLEANS — When you hear talk about possible tropical development in the Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico, you might hear about something called "the Loop Current." But what is that, and how does it affect hurricanes that could impact us?

The Loop Current is an area of warm water that travels up from the Caribbean, past the Yucatan Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico. It can sometime be called the Florida current because it flows through the Florida straight into the Gulf of Mexico and heads up the eastern coast of the United States.

For a tropical system develop, it needs three things to thrive and grow into a hurricane: deep, warm water (upwards of 80°F), low wind shear and no dry air. When all three of those parameters are met, a very powerful and dangerous storm like Hurricane Ida occurs. Ida, like Hurricane Katrina, had all three factors.

But it is important to know that there are other factors that determine how active the Atlantic Hurricane season will be, or how powerful any storms can become.

It is possible that tropical systems can move over the Loop Current and not result in anything significant. In 2020, Hurricane Marco passed right over the Loop Current and resulted in nothing more than a weak hurricane.

The Loop Current is running a little further north in the Gulf of Mexico this year, but that does not mean a hurricane will form based on that alone. It just means that if a storm passes over it, the warm waters could provide extra strength.

So while some headlines about the Loop Current might seem frightening, just know that the Gulf is warm every summer. The Loop Current is worth keeping an eye on, but it does not guarantee a strong hurricane will form because of it.

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