State of the Ocean:  Hydrographic Conditions on the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf during 2014

Paula Fratantoni, NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Date: May 6th , 2015

NEFSC Stephen H. Clark Conference Room, NOAA Aquarium Building


The operational oceanography programs of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) maintain the most comprehensive ongoing, shelf-wide record of hydrographic measurements on the Northeast U.S. continental shelf, making up the majority of oceanographic monitoring in the region. This comprehensive environmental record, consistently sampled across years, seasons and ecosystem, supports numerous management applications under fisheries, ecosystem, climate, and coastal marine spatial planning. Internationally, these hydrographic data represent the primary U.S. contribution to the ICES Report on Ocean Climate, an annual product of the ICES Working Group on Oceanic Hydrography tasked with synthesizing the latest oceanographic and atmospheric observations for the North Atlantic and Nordic Seas.  The report consolidates decades of ocean observations across the ICES region to describe the status of sea temperature and salinity and atmospheric conditions for the current year, as well as observed trends and variability spanning at least the past decade.  Here we provide an overview of the broad-scale atmospheric and oceanographic conditions as reported for the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf during 2014. Overall, 2014 was characterized by continued warming throughout the water column and an increase in the seasonal range of temperature.  In addition to these long-term trends, observations also reveal a significant seasonal event that led to profound changes in the water mass distributions on the shelf. Such episodic events have the potential to cause significant changes in the ecosystem, including changes in nutrient loading on the shelf, the seasonal elimination of critical habitats such as the cold pool and shelf-slope front, disruption of seasonal migration cues, and an increase in the concentration of offshore larval fish on the shelf.