Interannual to decadal temperature variability in the north-west Atlantic: Observations from the MV Oleander XBT line

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Jacob Samuel Tse Forsyth, Magdalena Andres and Glen Gawarkiewicz, WHOI, Woods Hole, MA, United States
Despite convincing evidence of deep ocean warming, temperature changes over the shelves have proven difficult to quantify as most long-term records lack the spatial and temporal resolution needed to resolve shelf variability. XBT data have been collected for 37 years along a repeat track from New Jersey to Bermuda from the MV Oleander providing the resolution necessary for shelf analysis. The XBT temperature data on the shelf (onshore of the 80 m isobath) were binned with 10 km horizontal and 5 m vertical resolution to produce monthly and annually averaged temperature sections. A climatology produced from the binned data identifies key seasonal temperature features consistent with previous climatologies, showing the utility of the XBT data. Annual spatially-averaged shelf temperatures have trended upwards since the beginning of the record in 1977 (0.025 C/yr), with recent trends (i.e., since 2002, 0.10 C/yr) substantially larger than the overall 37- year trend. Comparison of composite sections for the most anomalous years suggests that the interannual variability in the spatially-averaged temperatures is most heavily influenced by temperature anomalies near the shelf break.

The spatially-averaged temperature anomalies are not correlated with annually-averaged coastal sea level anomalies from tide gauges at zero lag, which suggest that interannual variability in coastal sea level is not due to thermo steric effects. However, a strong positive correlation is found between 2-year lagged temperature anomalies and coastal sea level anomalies. This relationship is most pronounced for the shelf break temperature anomalies, with the strongest 2-year lag correlations found in winter and spring. Connections between the observed interannual to decadal temperature variability on the shelf and variability in the AMOC are being investigated in an ongoing effort to better understand open-ocean/shelf interactions in the Northwest Atlantic.