Scientist Say NE Sea Surface Temps Highest Ever

During the first 6 months of 2012, sea surface temperatures in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem were the highest ever recorded, according to the latest Ecosystem Advisory issued by NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). Above-average temperatures were found in all parts of the ecosystem, from the ocean bottom to the sea surface and across the region. These above-average temperatures extended beyond the shelf edge to the Gulf Stream.

The SST conditions for the months January through June during the first half of 2012 were among the warmest recorded in the extended reconstruction data series. The SSTs for March, May, and June were the highest for the time series.

Additionally, the annual 2012 spring plankton bloom was apparently more intense, started earlier and lasted longer than average. This has implications for marine life from the smallest creatures to the largest marine mammals, says a press release issued by NOAA. Troubling to local fishermen, Atlantic cod continued to shift northeastward from their historic distribution center.

The Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem experienced above average sea surface temperatures during the spring of 2012 continuing the trend of above average temperatures seen during fall into winter seasons. In the graph for the last half of 2011 and first half of 2012, the long term mean SST is shown as a dark gray line with areas representing plus and minus one and two standard deviations of the mean as progressive shades of gray, respectively. SSTs below the long term mean are shown in blue, above the mean in red. The warmest seasonal conditions during 2012 were found during March.

The Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) extends from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The NEFSC has monitored this ecosystem with comprehensive sampling programs from 1977 onward; prior to 1977, this ecosystem was also monitored by the NEFSC through a series of separate but coordinated programs dating back decades.

“A pronounced warming event occurred on the Northeast Shelf this spring, and this will have a profound impact throughout the ecosystem,” said Kevin Friedland, a scientist in the NEFSC’s Ecosystem Assessment Program. “Changes in ocean temperatures and the timing of the spring plankton bloom could affect the biological clocks of many marine species, which spawn at specific times of the year based on environmental cues like water temperature.”

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has a cooperative research program with lobster fishermen (eMOLT program) to deploy temperature probes attached to lobster traps. The figure shows the data from Billy Anderson's site “BA02” in 47 fathoms (86m) off Lubec, Maine which indicates 2012 is almost two degrees (C) above the mean.

Friedland said the average sea surface temperature (SST) exceeded 10.5 degrees C (51°F) during the first half of 2012, exceeding the previous record high in 1951. Average SST has typically been lower than 9 degrees C (48°F) over the past 3 decades. Sea surface temperature in the region is based on both contemporary satellite remote-sensing data and long-term shipboard measurements, with historical SST conditions based on shipboard measurements dating back to 1854.

In some nearshore locations such as Delaware and Chesapeake Bays in the Middle Atlantic Bight region, temperatures were more than 6 degrees C (11°F) above historical average at the surface and more than 5 degrees C (9°F) above average at the bottom. In deeper offshorewaters to the north, bottom waters were 1 degree C (2°F) warmer in the eastern Gulf of Maine and greater than 2 degrees C (3.6°F) warmer in the western Gulf of Maine.

Share this Article On Facebook Twitter More...

Follow New England Boating:

Like New England Boating on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Receive our Daily RSS Feed.

Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter!

Each month our emailed newsletter keeps you up to speed on the top news items, videos, destinations, reviews and fishing articles on New England Boating, so you won’t miss a beat. It’s convenient, it’s free, and you can opt out at any time!