Trends and Change Points In Surface and Bottom Thermal Environments of the US Northeast Continental Shelf Ecosystem

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Ocean Science and Engineering


Temperature is an important factor in defining the habitats of marine resource species. While satellite sensors operationally measure ocean surface temperatures, we depend on in situ measurements to characterize benthic habitats. Ship‐based measurements were interpolated to develop a time series of gridded spring and fall, surface and bottom temperature fields for the US Northeast Shelf. Surface and bottom temperatures have increased over the study period (1968–2018) at rates between 0.18–0.31°C per decade and over a shorter time period (2004–2018) at rates between 0.26–1.49°C per decade. A change point analysis suggests that a warming regime began in the surface waters in 2011 centered on Georges Bank and the Nantucket Shoals; in following years, most of the Northeast Shelf had experienced a shift in surface temperature. A similar analysis of bottom temperature suggests a warming regime began in 2008 in the eastern Gulf of Maine; in following years, change points in temperature occurred further to the west in the Gulf of Maine, finally reaching the Middle Atlantic Bight by 2010. The spatial pattern in bottom water warming is consistent with well‐known oceanographic patterns that advect warming North Atlantic waters into the Gulf of Maine. The varying spatial and temporal progression of warming in the two layers suggests they were actuated by different sets of forcing factors. We then compared these trends and change points to responses of lower and higher trophic level organisms and identified a number of coincident shifts in distribution and biomass of key forage and fisheries species.

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Fisheries Oceanography





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