Sustained Ocean Observations and Climate

CINAR will address challenges of sustained climate observations and research to understand interactions between the open ocean and the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME). We will focus on:

  1. analyses and development of improved data sets quantifying Atlantic basin climate forcing,
  2. use of these data sets to examine the projection of climate modes (such as the North Atlantic Oscillation) onto the NES LME,
  3. the development of enabling technologies for climate observations, including new multidisciplinary sensors, the establishment of new observations at key locations, and optimization of observing systems, and
  4. joint analyses of observations and models on climate scales.

 

The ocean covers 70% of the earth’s surface, can store 1100 times more heat than the atmosphere, and is absorbing roughly half of anthropogenic carbon dioxide discharge. The daily to seasonal to longer time-scale evolution of its structure and state largely reflects a response to inputs of heat, freshwater, and momentum from the atmosphere. The ocean has global connectivity, redistributing freshwater, nutrients, heat, and anthropogenically-generated constituents; on long time scales (100s of years) water masses form at high latitudes and sink into the interior and recirculate. Strong western boundary currents (e.g., the Gulf Stream) carry warm waters poleward. Coupled modes of ocean-atmosphere variability, such as ENSO and the NAO modulate circulation on interannual to multi-decadal periods. The higher greenhouse gas content of the atmosphere is shifting surface radiation and freshwater budgets and forcing accompanying changes in the ocean.  At any one place, variability may reflect response to local atmospheric forcing, ranging from synoptic weather to large-scale coherent patterns, such as basin-scale surface expressions of NAO.  Local change may also stem from advection, which can be wind-driven or part of a larger scale oceanic response to climate modes such as NAO or the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Because of this superposition, understanding and predictability of climate modes are essential for building skill to predict variability and change at any location.

Coupling between the open ocean and coastal waters and synergies between observations and research in both domains, are of particular interest to CINAR, as the LME is forced externally by basin and global climate modes in many ways. Strong coastal boundary currents such as the Gulf Stream and deep western boundary currents are part of the ocean climate system and modulate the transport of nutrients critical to marine life. Nutrients, pollutants, and other material from rivers and streams affect ecosystem health, and various processes govern exchange between the coastal and open ocean. Changes of inflows and outflows to and in the surface forcing of coastal waters lead to variability and change in coastal waters. Large-scale sustained ocean observing and research provides context, quantifying atmospheric and oceanic drivers of the coastal region.

One uncommon aspect of the western North Atlantic exerts strong influence on the ecosystem: in response to atmospheric forcing, the NES LME shows the highest annual temperature (and stratification) range of any U.S. shelf region. In winter, stratification is low and temperature increases offshore until the shelf/slope front, which separates the LME from the Slope Sea (Beardsley & Boicourt 1981). In summer, stratification is strong, with SSTs in the MAB reaching 26°C and bottom temperatures over the outer shelf with annual minima of 6-8°C.  This “cold pool” water originates in the GoM and retains its winter temperatures while flowing southward. Migratory fishes have adopted complex life-cycle strategies that accommodate this range, but this annual cycle and the complex spatial structure of the temperature field are sensitive to climatic variability, with implications for the success of these fisheries.

To address challenges of sustained climate observations and research and to understand the coupling between the open ocean and the LME, efforts in Theme V build on partnerships with the other Themes and will focus on:

  1. analyses and development of improved data sets quantifying Atlantic basin climate forcing,
  2. use of these data sets to examine the projection of climate modes (such as the North Atlantic Oscillation) onto the NES LME,
  3. the development of enabling technologies for climate observations, including new multidisciplinary sensors, the establishment of new observations at key locations, and optimization of observing systems, and
  4. joint analyses of observations and models on climate scales.

Funded Sustained and Ocean Observations and Climate Abstracts

  1. R/V Oceanus use in support of NOAA/AOML's Western Boundary Time Series Research - Suchy, WHOI
  2. NOAA State of the Artic Report - Proshutinsky, WHOI
  3. R/V Atlantis Support of NOAA CalNEX 2010 Cruise - Suchy,WHOI 
  4. WHOI Contribution ARGO Float Program (2010-2011) Owens, WHOI
  5. 50 Year Analysis Global Ocean Surface Heat Flux - Yu / Weller,WHOI 
  6. Ocean Climate Observations and Analyses (2010-2011) Weller/ Plueddemann, WHOI 
  7. Development, Enhancement and Operation of Software Components for the IOOS Data Portal - Shyka, GMRI