As Hurricane Ida headed into the Gulf of Mexico, a team of scientists was closely watching a giant, slowly swirling pool of warm water directly ahead in its path. That warm pool, an eddy, was a warning sign. It was around 125 miles (200 kilometers) across.
And it was about to give Ida the power boost that in the span of less than 24 hours would turn it from a weak hurricane into the dangerous Category 4 storm that slammed into Louisiana just outside New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2021.
Nick Shay, an oceanographer at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, was one of those scientists. In an interview with the staff of The Conversation, he explains how these eddies, part of what’s known as the Loop Current, help storms rapidly intensify into monster hurricanes.