Northwest Atlantic Ocean Warming Predictions

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A new study by NOAA researchers suggests future warming of ocean waters off the Northeastern U.S. may be greater and occur at an even faster rate than previously projected.

Their findings, based on output from four global climate models of varying ocean and atmospheric resolution, indicate that ocean temperature in the U.S. Northeast Shelf is projected to warm twice as fast as previously projected and almost three times faster than the global average.

The models were developed at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) in Princeton, New Jersey.

Over the past ten years, the Gulf of Maine has warmed faster than 99% of the global ocean.  Recent studies indicate that the enhanced warming is associated with a northerly shift in the Gulf Stream.

Changes in the distribution and species composition are already evident. Warming of 3 to 4 degrees C (as much as 5.4 to 7.2 degrees F), projected by the new models, will likely cause more extreme effects on the ecosystem.

The study appears in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, published by the American Geophysical Union.

The study also found that the warming of the upper 300 meters (roughly 1,000 feet) of the Northwest Atlantic increases salinity due to a change in water mass distribution related to a retreat of the colder, fresher Labrador Current and a northerly shift of the warmer, saltier Gulf Stream.

source: NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center