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New ocean forecast could help predict fish habitat 6 months in advance
Date:8/30/2013

People are now used to long-term weather forecasts that predict what the coming winter may bring. But University of Washington researchers and federal scientists have developed the first long-term forecast of conditions that matter for Pacific Northwest fisheries.

"Being able to predict future phytoplankton blooms, ocean temperatures and low-oxygen events could help fisheries managers," said Samantha Siedlecki, a research scientist at the UW-based Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean.

"This is an experiment to produce the first seasonal prediction system for the ocean ecosystem. We are excited about the initial results, but there is more to learn and explore about this tool not only in terms of the science, but also in terms of its application," she said.

In January, when the prototype was launched, it predicted unusually low oxygen this summer off the Olympic coast. People scoffed. But when an unusual low-oxygen patch developed off the Washington coast in July, some skeptics began to take the tool more seriously. The new tool predicts that low-oxygen trend will continue, and worsen, in coming months.

"We're taking the global climate model simulations and applying them to our coastal waters," said Nick Bond, a UW research meteorologist. "What's cutting edge is how the tool connects the ocean chemistry and biology."

Bond's research typically involves predicting ocean conditions decades in advance. But as Washington's state climatologist he distributes quarterly weather forecasts. With this project he decided to combine the two, taking a seasonal approach to marine forecasts.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration funded the project to create the tool and publish the two initial forecasts.

"Simply knowing if things are likely to get better, or worse, or stay the same, would be really useful," said collaborator Phil Levin, a biologist at NOAA's Northwest Fisheries
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Contact: Hannah Hickey
hickeyh@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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