Friday, May 3, 2013

Warming ocean surface temperatures, and a cool chart

Did the water at your East Coast beach seem warmer than usual last summer? That's because it was: sea surface temperatures for the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem, which reaches from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to the Gulf of Maine, reached a record high of 14 degrees Celsius in 2012, higher than the average of 12.4 degrees Celsius for the past 30 years. That's according to a new report from NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

And it's not just the surface temperatures that are increasing - the warm water thermal habitat was at a record high, while cold water habitat was at a record low. Warm water went deeper than usual, and the habitat is changing. What is the impact? According to NOAA,
Temperature is also affecting distributions of fish and shellfish on the Northeast Shelf. The advisory provides data on changes in distribution, or shifts in the center of the population, of seven key fishery species over time. The four southern species - black sea bass, summer flounder, longfin squid and butterfish - all showed a northeastward or upshelf shift. American lobster has shifted upshelf over time but at a slower rate than the southern species. Atlantic cod and haddock have shifted downshelf.”
You can see the movement in the chart at the top of the post. Or, as Grist.org puts it, "record-breaking temperatures  . . . are driving the fish away from fast-heating waters to more hospitable depths and latitudes."

The warming won't affect the appearance of mung seaweed on Cape Cod, at least not according to this National Park Service information sheet. That apparently drifts in from points farther north.  

I am quite taken with the way the chart incorporates geographical information to show the movement of species. Do you agree?

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