Mass Bay Forecasts--Coming Soon!

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 The pervasive cold and darkness that characterizes winters in New England means that primary productivity in the Gulf of Maine shuts down during this time.  However, shallow waters along the coast limit how far below the surface the phytoplankton can be mixed.  For this reason, the spring bloom in the Gulf of Maine starts along the coast and in the south, so biology in Mass Bay tends to lead the rest of the Gulf.  If you're an animal, like a right whale, that can swim large distances, Mass Bay is likely your first stop in your annual tour of the Gulf. Autobuoys.jpg

From the point of view of a right whale, the downside to Mass Bay is that it is surrounded by Massachusetts.  This means that the Bay is one of the more industrial stretches of water in the world.  Large ships bring cargo to and from Boston.  Other ships are supporting the construction of liquified natural gas terminals in the Bay.  Smaller fishing boats move through the area, taking advantage of the same productivity that draws the right whales to the Bay.  Oh, and all those people in Massachusetts, they produce a lot of sewage, and a lot of it ends up in the Bay (after suitable processing, we hope).  The upside of all this activity, is that there is a lot of science going on.  Our colleagues at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies regularly collect zooplankton samples, partly to provide information relevant to right whales, and partly to monitor the impact of the sewage outfall.  Our colleagues at Cornell's Lab of Ornithology have installed a series of "autobuoys" that can detect the presence of right whales in the shipping lanes and near the LNG sites (see the image).  All this data creates the perfect environment to try some right whale forecasting.  If we can't do it in Mass Bay, we probably can't do it!

Here's what we plan to do
  1. Run SEASCAPE to estimate the abundance of the whales' favorite copepods: Calanus finmarchicus, Pseudocalanus, and Centropages typicus.
  2. Use the ensemble Kalman filter to assimilate PCCS's weekly zooplankton survey into our model.  This will give an improved estimate of the whale's prey-field and should improve the accuracy of the model over the following week.
  3. Use the model output, plus satellite data and other variables to estimate right whale habitat in the Bay.
  4. Use an assimilation procedure to refine our whale habitat estimates using the Cornell acoustic detections.
I have implemented the Kalman filter procedure and am currently testing it with previous years.  Hopefully, I'll have this working next week and we can start making some forecasts.

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This page contains a single entry by Andy Pershing published on January 28, 2009 4:12 PM.

SURF'S UP! if you're a plankton... was the previous entry in this blog.

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