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Description of oceanographic conditions on the Northeast US Continental Shelf during 2016
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Description of oceanographic conditions on the Northeast US Continental Shelf during 2016
  • Description:
    Hydrographic observations from 7 surveys spanning the Northeast US Continental Shelf are combined into a descriptive overview of the oceanographic conditions observed during 2016. Temperature and salinity observations are combined into 6 bimonthly time periods to balance both the spatial coverage and temporal resolution of the data 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 Mid-Atlantic Bight. Overall, 2016 was characterized by warmer and more saline conditions than average 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 layer-depths in the western Gulf of Maine were shallow during the winter of 2016, presumably a consequence of anomalously warm air temperatures that persisted over the northeastern United States during winter and suppressed winter convective overturning in the western Gulf of Maine. By contrast, during late summer, observations indicate that Gulf Stream warm core ring water intruded onto the shelf in the Mid-Atlantic Bight and through deep channels into the Gulf of Maine, leading to anomalous warming across the outer shelf off southern New England and in the deep basins of the Gulf of Maine. Such episodic events have the potential to cause significant changes in the ecosystem, including changes in nutrient availability 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.
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