Description of oceanographic conditions on the northeast U.S. continental shelf during 2015
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Description of oceanographic conditions on the northeast U.S. continental shelf during 2015
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Description of oceanographic conditions on the northeast U.S. continental shelf during 2015
  • Description:
    Hydrographic observations from 8 surveys spanning the Northeast US Continental Shelf are combined into a descriptive overview of the broadscale oceanographic conditions observed during 2015. Temperature and salinity observations are combined into 6 bimonthly time periods to maximize both the spatial coverage of the data and its temporal resolution during the year. Maps of near-surface and near-bottom property distributions are presented for each bimonthly period and time series of regional average properties are discussed for 5 geographic regions spanning the shelf: western Gulf of Maine, eastern Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank, and northern and southern Middle Atlantic Bight. Overall, 2015 was characterized by warming, an increase in the seasonal range of temperature, and generally more saline conditions across the region. Deep (slope) waters entering the Gulf of Maine were warmer and saltier than average and their temperature and salinity suggest a subtropical source. Mixed layers in the western Gulf of Maine were anomalously deep during the winter of 2015, presumably a consequence of anomalously cold air temperatures that persisted over the northeastern United States during winter. The vigorous mixing led to the formation of an anomalously thick layer of intermediate water extending to the bottom of Wilkinson Basin the following spring. Finally, observations indicate that Gulf Stream water intruded onto the shelf in the Middle Atlantic Bight during late summer, leading to anomalous warming at the shelf break and in the upper 30 meters across the width of the shelf. Pycnocline gradients were enhanced and aligned with a shoreward protruding tongue of saline water. 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. [doi:10.7289/V5/RD-NEFSC-17-08(]
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