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"Sea Surface Temperatures Reach Record Highs on Northeast Continental Shelf"


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 2012 spring plankton bloom, one of the longest duration and most intense in recent history, started at the earliest date recorded since the ocean color remote sensing data series began in 1998. In some locations, the spring bloom began in February, and was fully developed by March in all areas except Georges Bank, which had an average although variable spring bloom. The 2012 spring bloom in the Gulf of Maine began in early March, the earliest recorded bloom in that area.

So, just so I have one more thing to worry about--

Anybody have any idea how this will affect hurricanes? Warmer water means more energy, right?

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zot23's picture
Submitted by zot23 on

but who really knows? When you have shifted the entire system off-center in a way that the Earth has never experienced, its hard to say exactly what happens next.

The big, hairy, 800 lb primate in this discussion though is the jets tream and Ocean currents themselves. The currents exist due to the physical structure of the Oceans (kind of like how jet stream is affected by mountain ranges and extended valleys), but the overarching dynamic is thermodynamics. Water heats up around the equator and this warm water flows up to the Arctic, cools down, falls down to the ocean floor, and then "pushes" its way back to the warmer equator. As it moves, it helps "push" the warmer water in front of it out of the way, so that water begins its trek (usually closer to the surface) back to the Arctic and does it all again.

But when the polar ice melts, there is more fresh water sitting on top of the colder salt water below. This can form sort of a stratification of water where it becomes much harder for that warm salt water to "push" its way to the surface to be cooled and drop back down. The fresh water can form a sort of blanket that keeps the warmer salt water away. If the salt water can't rise, it can't cool, it can't "push" back down through the Ocean floor, it ceases to "push" all the way down the chain. In effect, the Ocean current becomes weaker or stops completely.

We have absolutely no idea what would happen to the Earth's ecosystem if the deep water ocean currents just stopped. Best scenario is nature has a process to trigger another ice age to reclaim that surface ice and start again. Worst case is the ocean currents stop and everything that depends on them dies. That's a whole lot of things in the oceans that need that current to survive.

I don't know, would be fucking nice to talk about it on Capitol Hill though instead of Romney's taxes, or whether poor people are parasites or not, or about cutting social security while starting another "necessary" war.

Submitted by hipparchia on

Warmer water means more energy, right?

basically yes. but...

Anybody have any idea how this will affect hurricanes?

maybe, maybe not.

originally it was thought we might have more category 5 hurricanes (highest wind speeds), but recent experience suggests we might get more gigantic (400+ miles diameter) hurricanes with more rainfall but lower-then-expected wind speed.

related: you might have heard/read that global warming is going to make deserts drier and areas of high rainfall even wetter - it's worth clicking through to dr masters' post to read about the interaction of the drought in the midwest with the ultimate path of hurricane isaac.

Submitted by lambert on

... that ended up blundering up the Hudson and wrecking VT with flooding.

I have to say, from my own quarter-acre wide perspective, that more rain and lower winds is fine with me, because I'm less likely to lose trees and bits of roof.

Submitted by hipparchia on

although it's probably too soon to know with any certainty whether more irenes and isaacs will be the new normal, or whether this is just an intermediate stage and something worse is in the offing, or whether it's all just a blip and hurricanes will go back to being more predictable than they have been recently.

yeah, i could go for lower winds and more rain, we've got excellent drainage in my neighborhood, but places like new orleans and vermont may be in trouble.

Jay's picture
Submitted by Jay on

I realize that sending literally millennia and eons of the earth's carbon deposits straight up the smoke stack within a 300-year period might make for a daunting task, but . . . would it be possible to create a fast-growing plant-based carbon sequestration program that captured CO2, which then could be culled and stacked up or buried or ??? We know that annual global CO2 levels go up and down drastically due to the decomposition of leaves from deciduous trees in the Northern Hemisphere. Why not seek fast-growing plants or threes that quickly lock up CO2 and hold it as a stopgap measure? The Chinese are experimenting with irrigation and oases to combat desertification on the theory that since deserts beget desertification and more deserts, planting large swaths of trees and irrigating them affects the climate above those areas and downwind.

Also, would it be possible to create industrial-sized CO2 scrubbers, not unlike the technology inside space capsules, that would create graphite as a byproduct?

If we can collectively engage in detrimental practices that cause higher CO2 levels, can't we engage in beneficial practices that lower them?