Loop Current Transport and Dispersal Dynamics in the Gulf of Mexico
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Transport, connectivity, and dispersal both within and outside of the Gulf of Mexico impact important processes such as biological and pollutant dispersal. The Loop Current is a key flow feature within the Gulf of Mexico that affects transport. This research pairs Network Theory and Lagrangian oceanographic modeling (Lagrangian Flow Networks, LFN) to study the connectivity within the Gulf as a function of the Loop Current state. Surface-following particles are used to simulate Lagrangian transport over the observational record using a HYCOM ocean model reanalysis simulation coupled with the LFN particle tracking model computed on TACC supercomputers. The particle simulations are used to determine regions of connectivity, or hydrodynamic provinces, as a function of the Loop Current state, using machine learning. These provinces inform us about biological and pollutant transport variability, such as larval connectivity and harmful algal blooms.