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2015 in the Gulf of Maine

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Happy 2016, loyal Seascape reader(s)!  Both Nick and I now have realer jobs than when we started the blog, and our blogging has definitely taken a hit.  We're also shifting our focus to Twitter, where Nick is @SeascapeScience and I'm @Sci_Officer. 

For my first post in a very long time, I wanted to give a summary of temperature trends in the Gulf of Maine.  The rapid  warming in the Gulf of Maine received a lot of attention this year.  Most of it stemmed from our paper in Science linking rapid warming in the Gulf to the collapse of the region's cod fishery.  I'd like to point out that the unique warming in the Gulf was first reported here, although that probably just shows how slow I am at getting real papers written.

2015 was a wild and crazy year, as you can see by the seasonal cycle using OISST data:GOMTScycle_2015_full.jpg
We started with some of the warmest January temperatures, but then February happened. February 2015 was one of the coldest months ever in New England, and temperatures dropped in the Gulf of Maine.  The cooling was strongest along the coast and temperatures remained above average offshore. This resulted in spring temperatures that were close to average over much of the Gulf.

GOM2015quarterly.jpg
Temperatures bounced back in the summer, and for a few days in August, the temperature in the Gulf actually exceeded the records for those days set in 2012.  We ended the year like we began, with near or above record temperatures.

Adding it all up, 2015 just edged out 2014 for the title of third warmest year since 1982.  

Rank

Year

SST Anomaly

1

2012

2.0932

2

2013

1.2081

3

2015

1.1685

4

2014

1.1646

5

2010

0.9091

6

1999

0.8259

7

2011

0.7891

8

2002

0.7250

9

2006

0.5545

10

2000

0.4843


Over the last 30 years, the Gulf of Maine has warmed at a rate of 0.054° per year, which is 5 times the global average rate we reported in our paper.  The warming is even stronger over the last 15 years: 0.113° per year.  

GOMTStrend_2015_full.jpg

If we shift to the ERSST data, we can look at the Gulf of Maine over the last century and more. 

GOMtrend_2015.jpg

I'm always struck by the very warm conditions that occurred around 1950.  These were associated with a northward shift in the Gulf Stream, similar to what we've seen in recent years.  The difference, is that we are dealing with an overall warmer climate.  Still, only recently have the 5 year (yellow) and 10 year (red) running mean temperatures exceeded those in the 1950s.  Based on this data set, 2015 was the fourth warmest year, exceeded only by 2012, 1949, and 1952.

Rank

Year

SST Anomaly

1

2012

1.7059

2

1949

1.1949

3

1951

1.0967

4

2015

1.0391

5

2013

0.9141

6

2014

0.7208

7

1999

0.6661

8

1947

0.6245

9

2006

0.5733

10

2010

0.5534


I think 2016 will be another interesting year in our little corner of the ocean.  Outside the El Nino region, our December temperature anomaly was one of the warmest on the globe.  http://science.sciencemag.org/content/350/6262/809.short

2015_12_sst.jpg

NOAA is projecting that this winter will be mild.  If this plays out, we could enter spring with temperatures similar to those in 2012.  Of course, we could also get another February 2015.  Stay tuned.

Salp watch 2014

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Welcome to Salp Watch 2014. Lots of salp sightings this fall near the coast. Here's one we pulled up in a bucket during a GNATS cruise across the Gulf of Maine in September.

Thalia.jpg

It looks like Thalia democratica. The bloom was so dense you could see it off the bow for miles and miles.

In October, a group from the New England Aquarium reported huge salp blooms in the Bay of Fundy:


And around the same time I got this email:

"Yesterday out lobstering there was an incredible abundance of what I think were salps in the water near the surface. They were ladder like creatures about 4-6 inches long. In some areas there were dozens in a square meter (rough estimate). This picture doesn't do it justice but if you look at the lower right hand corner you can see a couple of them. The VHF chatter was all about how guys were having to clean their raw water intakes because they were getting clogged with jellies."

salps2.JPG

We have a salp model up and running at Bigelow now, and I hope to set this in forecasting mode for the bloom next fall (which is when our Maine salps bloom).

Nick Record, signing off

What if 1950 happened today?

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I've been thinking a lot about temperatures in the Gulf of Maine.  While recent temperatures have been very warm, and 2012 was extraordinary, we have only recently encountered conditions warmer than 1950:
GulfofMaineMeanTemp.jpg
Note that this time series (and the others below) have been smoothed using a two year running mean.  This removes the high-frequency signal, including damping out big events like 2012. In fact, 2013 is now the peak year in the Gulf of Maine, and it is almost exactly the same temperature as 1950.

The causes of the 1950 event (actually, a warm period from 1945-1955) are interesting, but in some ways, they're not important.  The Gulf of Maine, and the northwest Atlantic in general, is one of the most variable parts of the ocean:
SSTstd.jpg
This means that we can think of 1950 as giving us a glimpse of just how far we could get away from mean conditions. To do this, we need to know the mean conditions, in this case,  the global mean sea surface temperature:
GlobalMeanTemp.jpg
You'll notice that the warming is pretty steady when averaged over the globe.  In 1950, the mean SST was 0.4° cooler than today.  If you view the Gulf of Maine relative to the rest of the ocean, you see that 1950 was even more extraordinary:
GulfofMaineMeanTemp_Diff.jpg
This gives us one way to think about how warm the Gulf of Maine could get.  If 1950 were to happen today, we would get an anomaly almost 0.5° above the 2013 average (line marked "max now"):
GulfofMaineMeanTemp_Projection.jpg
Climate models suggest that the mean temperature of the ocean is likely to rise by 3°C in latter part of the century ("mean future").  If 1950 were to happen in that climate, then we would have some very extraordinary temperatures ("max future"). 

By this same logic, we are just as likely to get a cold event of the same magnitude as 1950 as we are to get a warm event.  If we were to get one today, it would be about the same as the minimum temperature in the mid 1960s.  Every year, those temperatures become less and less likely, and in the future, a 1960s-like cold period would look a lot like our recent "warm" period.

Making observations at sea

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I've been an EML'er for exactly a year now, starting with my meager beginnings as an intern last May. This past year has been a fast pace transition. After graduating from the University of Maine in May of 2013 with a bachelor's in marine science, I essentially began working towards a master's in oceanography a week later. From that point on, I quickly evolved into a climate modeler and statistics geek. Now that the academic year is over, I can reflect back on my experiences as a first year graduate student and look forward to what the future may hold.

One such experience occurred during a recent (May 1-12) research cruise aboard the R/V Knorr. This cruise sailed between Woods Hole and Bermuda following a direct, linear path called Line W. The Line W field program is a long-term climate observing system put in place by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in 2003. It consists of a moored array of 6 buoys extending over the shelf break. The goal of the program is to gather hydrographic data to better understand the baseline conditions of the Deep Western Boundary Current and Gulf Stream.


Line W is named after the late physical oceanographer, Valentine Worthington, who devoted much of his life and career to understanding the circulation and water mass formation in the North Atlantic Ocean. Like most great things in science, the Line W program recently came to an end due to unobtainable funds. I was fortunate enough to have been a part of its legacy by participating on the final leg of the program.
 
Scannell1.JPG On this cruise, we took shipboard hydrography measurements at 26 stations along Line W. We lowered a CTD rosette to depths beyond 5,000 meters to measure temperature, salinity and oxygen. An upward and downward facing acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) was attached to the CTD to measure the water current velocity. From the CTD control station within the main lab aboard the Knorr, we fired Niskin bottles at different depths to collect 10-liters of water. A trip down to 5,000 meters can take over 3 hours, so a lot of time was spent waiting in the lab. The CTD and ADCP measurements allowed us to obtain vertical profiles of the Deep Western Boundary Current and Gulf Stream along the location where they intersect Line W. Changes in the global thermohaline circulation are expected to occur due to climate changes at high latitudes, and the past successes of the Line W program have given scientists the ability to document these changes through observational studies.

Scannell3.JPG
Yes, observations! During my experience on the Line W cruise, I couldn't help but fixate on the apparent divide between climate modeling and observational oceanography. Models enable us to force a condition, test our theories and make predictions, but perhaps every modeler should connect their virtual reality with hydrographic observations at sea. For me, this is exactly what Line W did.

Scannell4.JPG

As I look forward to the future, I am reassured as a modeler that the oceans continue to be explored, measured and observed through long-term field programs like Line W. 

On the Line W cruise, I not only gained a greater appreciation for the data I often take for granted, but I also gained a new admiration for the labor intensive field of observational oceanography.

--

Hillary Scannell, UMaine/GMRI

Photos provided by WHOI.

http://www.whoi.edu/science/PO/linew/


Another warming-Maine map

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Feeling the chill of the approaching Northeaster? This map will warm your core. It highlights the areas in our neighborhood that are among the fastest warming in the global ocean over the past ten years. You can see that parts of the Gulf of Maine are among the fastest 0.01% of the ocean in terms of rate of warming. 

WarmingPercentMaine.jpg

To put things in context, here are the warming and cooling regions throughout the global ocean. Red areas have warmed over the ten year period, blue areas have cooled.

OceanWarming.jpg
So if you're chilled to the bone this winter, go for a dip. Just make sure you swim for at least a decade so that you experience the climate signal.

Nick Record, signing off

A closer look at Gulf of Maine warming

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On a frigid February Friday, when I should otherwise be in Hawaii at the Ocean Sciences meeting, there is one substitution for staying warm: looking at Gulf of Maine temperature trends. This blog is a closer look at the Gulf of Maine warming that Andy described in an earlier post (and a still earlier post).

A closer look shows that the warming over the past 30 years (about .3 deg C per year) is not uniform across the gulf, or throughout the year. The plot shows the warming trend for each month across the gulf. The red regions in the upper left sub plot, for example, show areas where January temperatures have warmed over the past 30 years. The next sub-plot shows February and so on. Blue indicates a cooling trend. The twelve sub plots are for the twelve months.

GOM30yrwarming.jpg
The Bay of Fundy is consistently warming, and the autumn is generally warmer now than in the 1980s. But there is some nuance here. February, for example, has been getting cooler.

By contrast, here is the same plot looking at the past 10 years (same color scale):

GOM10yrwarming.jpg
This represents a gulf-wide 2-3 degree warming over the past 10 years. This histogram summarizes the data, similar to Andy's last post.

TchangeHist.jpg

Although these plots show warming trends, they don't produce warming themselves, and my fingers are starting to freeze up. This may be the last thing I type today.

Nick Record, signing off



The Gulf of Maine is Warming Fast!

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I'm at the NCSE "Climate Solutions Conference" in Washington, DC this week.  I was invited to talk about the lessons we can learn from the 2012 ocean heat wave in a session on "Managing Fisheries Under Climate Change."  For my talk, I was curious whether the warming we've seen in the Gulf of Maine is unique.  Short answers: it is very unique: since 2004, the Gulf of Maine has warmed faster than 99.85% of the global ocean.


To get to this number, I grabbed the global sea surface temperature (SST) data set from NOAA's   optimally interpolated product.  I removed the mean annual cycle (1982-2011) to produce daily anomalies.  I then selected 2,000 point at random (shown over the mean SST from June):
SSTtrendpoints.jpg
At each point, I computed the linear trend over the last 10 years (January 2004-September 2013).  At this relatively short time scale, I would expect to see a lot of variability--a lot of places warming, but also a lot of places cooling, and this is what I found. The mean trend is 0.006°C/yr and there are slightly more points that are warming (1024 points) than cooling (976).  

The distribution of trends is pretty much normal (in the statistical sense):
GlobalSSTdistr.jpg
but the Gulf of Maine is decidedly abnormal.  The Gulf is warming at 0.23°C/yr (see my previous post), and from my 2000 randomly selected points, I found only four (FOUR!) that were warming faster (red stars on the map).    Turns out one of them was from the Gulf of Maine (go figure), and that the other points were from the Kuroshio extension region northeast of Japan.  This makes some sense oceanographically and is probably driven by a northward shift in the Kuroshio (the Pacific's Gulf Stream). 

According to this analysis, the warming in the Gulf is remarkable, and frankly, a little scary.  However, it is important to remember that this is just a statistical analysis.  At some point, the trend will slow, but we don't know when and by how much.  There is clearly more work to be done to understand the mechanisms that are driving the current trend.   And, there is also an opportunity to use the Gulf of Maine to understand how an ecosystem responds to rapid climate change.

Gulf of Maine Temperature Trends

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Happy 2014 to you, dear Seascape reader(s)! To kick off another year of oceanographic musings, here is the updated temperature trend for the Gulf of Maine:

GOMssttimeseries.jpg

This is essentially the same figure we used to show the 2012 event, but extended through early September (the last available AVHRR OI field).  As you can see, 2013 was cooler than 2012, but was still a very warm year. The recent warming trend has continued (it's actually a little stronger), and 2012 still stands out as unusual.  Of course, this doesn't include the impact of a few very cold days recently (I'm talking about you, polar vortex), nor does it include the very mild weather we're experiencing now.  Temperatures in the ocean change much more slowly than those on land, and water temperatures are a better indicator of climate trends than the weather on a given day.  I hope to update the SST animations in a couple of weeks.

 

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.

Poster for ICES Conference

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I'm starting my tour of the world's volcanic islands with a trip to Iceland.  I'll be attending the ICES Annual Science Conference and presenting a poster on the "Impact of the 2012 Ocean Heat Wave on Fish and Fisheries."  You can download the poster PershingICES_olf.pdf   I hope to return with some pictures of glaciers.
ICES.jpg

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