RARGOM confirms 2012 was weird

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RARGOM, the Regional Association for Research on the Gulf Of Maine, selected the 2012 ocean heatwave as its topic for this year's annual science meeting.  Due to my obsession with 2012 and inability to duck responsibility, I ended up organizing the meeting.  

The meeting was held on Tuesday in Portsmouth (NH, not England--maybe next year), and we had a huge turnout. I think this speaks to the impact that the 2012 event had on the collective psyche of the Gulf of Maine community.  We had a great series of talks and posters (here's the agenda  and hopefully, we'll get the talks up on the RARGOM website soon), and I think we're starting to get a picture of just how weird things have gotten in the Gulf of Maine. Here are a few themes that stuck out for me:

  • Causes of 2012: According to Ke Chen (WHOI), the 2012 heatwave was caused by the atmosphere and likely related to a strongly positive NAO.  Although 2012 stands out over the long-term history, according to our own Hillary Scannell (UMaine/GMRI), the current climate should produce 2012-like events about once every 10 years.
  • Impact on Calanus: Yes, our old friend Calanus made several appearances at the meeting, but mostly in the context of 2013.  Desiree Tommasi (GFDL), filling in for NOAA's Kevin Friedland who is being held hostage by the government shutdown, reported that they were not able to define a spring phytoplankton bloom for 2013 and that the total abundance of zooplankton caught by NOAA this spring was very, very low.  Jeff Runge's (UMaine/GMRI) found an opposite pattern in the western Gulf of Maine: Calanus was very abundant, but perhaps occurred later in the year.  Heather Koopman (UNCW) said that they had incredibly low Calanus abundances in the Bay of Fundy this year, and that right whales were scarce.Razorbill_iceland.jpg
  • Bad year for birds: The saddest stories from 2012 were about seabirds, especially puffins and razorbills.  Tony Diamond (UNB) and Thomas Robben described a dramatic shift in the distribution of razorbills during the winter of 2012/2013.  Razorbills were found regularly in Florida during the winter and there were many reports of dead razorbills up and down the coast (next time, I'll put Tony and his necropsy photos after lunch).  Tony's hypothesis is that the temperature caused a shift in the distribution of their prey (likely herring).  Puffins were also hit hard, and according to Steve Kress (Audubon/Cornell), the culprit was not a lack of prey, but the wrong kind of prey.  Although they sound tasty, butterfish are terrible food for baby puffins.  The fish are too wide for the babies to swallow (shown in this video), and islands where the adults were finding lots of butterfish had very poor chick survival.  
  • Not just the Gulf of Maine: Catherine Johnson (DFO, BIO) gave a great overview of the impact of the 2012 event on the Canadian shelf.  She describes many of the same impacts, including observations of butterfish and a subtropical fish called a blue runner in Newfoundland.
  • Lobsters and fish: Suzy Arnold from the Island Institute had a poster describing the synthesis from their workshop this summer.  Jenny Sun (GMRI) presented an analysis of the connections between the US and Canadian lobster markets. Kathy Mills (UMaine/GMRI) gave an overview of our 2012 lobster story, including our idea about seasonal predictions.  She is starting to weave this story into a broader vision of how to think about climate adaptation in fisheries.  Building on this view, Jonathan Labaree (GMRI) described how 2012 has made climate impacts a major concern among fishermen.

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This page contains a single entry by Andy Pershing published on October 13, 2013 10:53 AM.

Acoustic zooplankton time series from the NERACOOS buoys was the previous entry in this blog.

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