Sea surface temperatures reach highest level in 150 years on Northeast continental shelf

Sea surface temperatures in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem during 2012 were the highest recorded in 150 years, according to the latest Ecosystem Advisory issued by NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). These high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are the latest in a trend of above average temperature seen during the spring and summer seasons, and part of a pattern of elevated temperatures occurring in the Northwest Atlantic, but not seen elsewhere in the ocean basin over the past century…

Sea surface temperature in the region is based on both contemporary satellite remote-sensing data and long-term ship-board measurements, with historical SST conditions based on ship-board measurements dating back to 1854. The temperature increase in 2012 was the highest jump in temperature seen in the time series and one of only five times temperature has changed by more than 1 C…

“Changes in ocean temperatures and the timing and strength of spring and fall plankton blooms could affect the biological clocks of many marine species, which spawn at specific times of the year based on environmental cues like water temperature,” Kevin Friedland, a scientist in the NEFSC Ecosystem Assessment Program, said. He noted that the contrast between years with, and without, a fall bloom is emerging as an important driver of the shelf’s ecology. “The size of the spring plankton bloom was so large that the annual chlorophyll concentration remained high in 2012 despite low fall activity. These changes will have a profound impact throughout the ecosystem.”

Michael Fogarty, who heads the Ecosystem Assessment Program, says the abundance of fish and shellfish is controlled by a complex set of factors, and that increasing temperatures in the ecosystem make it essential to monitor the distribution of many species, some of them migratory and others not…”We now have information on the ecosystem from a variety of sources collected over a long period of time, and are adding more data to clarify specific details. The data clearly show a relationship between all of these factors.”

“What these latest findings mean for the Northeast Shelf ecosystem and its marine life is unknown,” Fogarty said. “What is known is that the ecosystem is changing, and we need to continue monitoring and adapting to these changes.”

What is also known is that the average political hack in Congress doesn’t care a tinker’s damn about these changes – or how they may result. So, a comprehensive political response to build understanding and education, policy and best practices among those who earn their livelihood from the Northeast seas – ain’t about to happen.

3 thoughts on “Sea surface temperatures reach highest level in 150 years on Northeast continental shelf

  1. Doc says:

    “Fluctuations in sea surface temperature are a factor in causing persistent droughts in North America and around the Mediterranean, new research suggests.” https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-07/uoe-stc071817.php Ocean temperatures are a major driver of conditions on land, and the researchers showed that the changes they observed correlated with increases in land temperature variability, and persistence of extreme temperatures.
    This in turn was associated with persistent droughts in North America and on land around the Mediterranean. An ongoing drought in the Eastern Mediterranean, which began in 1998, has been described by NASA as the “worst drought of the past nine centuries” in the region.

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