Recently in General Category
I'm reporting to you live from the middle of the equatorial Pacific, well sort of. Just a few hours ago I was sitting on a plane and realized that I was indeed flying above what might be a developing El Niño. You may have noticed El Niño receiving a lot of attention in the news lately. Scientists seem to be keyed in on the equatorial Pacific, and perhaps for a good reason. Sea surface temperatures appear to be warming in a classical El Niño-like fashion. The last significant El Niño occurred in 1997/98 and it's speculated that we're long overdue for another "big one."You may also be wondering why I'm flying over the middle of the Pacific. My travels are owed to a NSF East-Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes fellowship, which takes me to Australia for 8-weeks to work alongside climatologists and oceanographers at the University of New South Wales, Climate Change Research Centre. From kangaroos to the animals trying to kill me, I will attempt to keep you updated with my latest discoveries in the land down under.
- 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.
- 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.