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Sea surface temperatures reach record highs on Northeast continental shelf
Date:9/18/2012

During the first six months of 2012, sea surface temperatures in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem were the highest ever recorded, according to the latest Ecosystem Advisory issued by NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). Above-average temperatures were found in all parts of the ecosystem, from the ocean bottom to the sea surface and across the region, and the above average temperatures extended beyond the shelf break front to the Gulf Stream.

The annual 2012 spring plankton bloom was intense, started earlier and lasted longer than average. This has implications for marine life from the smallest creatures to the largest marine mammals like whales. Atlantic cod continued to shift northeastward from its historic distribution center.

The Northeast US Continental Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) extends from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The NEFSC has monitored this ecosystem with comprehensive sampling programs from 1977 onward; prior to 1977, this ecosystem was also monitored by the NEFSC through a series of separate but coordinated programs dating back decades.

"A pronounced warming event occurred on the Northeast Shelf this spring, and this will have a profound impact throughout the ecosystem," said Kevin Friedland, a scientist in the NEFSC's Ecosystem Assessment Program. "Changes in ocean temperatures and the timing of the spring plankton bloom could affect the biological clocks of many marine species, which spawn at specific times of the year based on environmental cues like water temperature."

Friedland said the average sea surface temperature (SST) exceeded 10.5 degrees C (51F) during the first half of 2012, exceeding the previous record high in 1951. Average SST has typically been lower than 9 degrees C (48F) over the past three decades. Sea surface temperature in the region is based on both contemporary satellite remote-sensing data and long-term ship-board measurements, wit
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Contact: Shelley Dawicki
Shelley.Dawicki@noaa.gov
508-495-2378
NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center
Source:Eurekalert

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