A new study by NOAA researchers suggests future warming of ocean waters off the Northeastern U.S. may be greater and occur at an even faster rate than previously projected.
Their findings, based on output from four global climate models of varying ocean and atmospheric resolution, indicate that ocean temperature in the U.S. Northeast Shelf is projected to warm twice as fast as previously projected and almost three times faster than the global average. The models were developed at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) in Princeton, New Jersey.
“We looked at four GFDL models and compared their output to ocean observations in the region. The highest resolution GFDL model, CM2.6, matched the Northwest Atlantic circulation and water mass distribution most accurately,” said Vincent Saba, a NOAA fisheries scientist and lead author of the study. “Prior climate change projections for the region may be far too conservative.”
Over the past ten years, the Gulf of Maine has warmed faster than 99% of the global ocean. Recent studies indicate that the enhanced warming is associated with a northerly shift in the Gulf Stream. Changes in the distribution and species composition are already evident, but existing climate change projections are based on warming scenarios from coarse resolution models. Warming of 3 to 4 degrees C (as much as 5.4 to 7.2 degrees F), projected by NOAA GFDL’s CM2.6, will likely cause more extreme effects on the ecosystem.