According to the NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), the sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem have drastically increased to the highest level in the last 150 years in 2012.
With rising temperatures, melting ice caps in the Arctic and record-setting melting rates of ice in the Antarctic Peninsula, NOAA's NEFSC has an addition to the list: the rising temperature at the sea surface of the Northeast Continental Shelf reached the highest level in more than a century, last year. According to the report, the sea surface temperature in the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem reached a record-setting 14 degree Celsius in 2012, which is the highest since 1951.
The measurements of the sea surface temperatures were done via both contemporary satellite remote-sensing data and ship board measurements dated since 1854. The data shows that the temperature has increased more than one degree Celsius only five times, and the SST in 2012 saw the highest increase.
Recently, a tendency of above-average temperatures have been observed during summer and spring seasons, and these high sea surface temperatures are the latest additions to this observation. It is also part of a pattern of elevated temperatures taking place in the Northwest Atlantic.
Increasing temperatures at the sea surface can cause damage to marine life and the distribution of species into different regions, which will heavily impact fisheries. As the effects of rising SST is concerned, black sea bass, summer founder, longfin squid and butterfish have already migrated to the north, while American lobsters are also moving north at a slow pace.
"Changes in ocean temperatures and the timing and strength of spring and fall plankton blooms could affect the biological clocks of many marine species, which spawn at specific times of the year based on environmental cues like water temperature," said Kevin Friedland, a scientist in the NEFSC Ecosystem Assessment Program, in an interview with Phys.org. "The size of the spring plankton bloom was so large that the annual chlorophyll concentration remained high in 2012 despite low fall activity. These changes will have a profound impact throughout the ecosystem."
The report shows that the rise in the SST is currently observed in the Northwest Atlantic and not in other ocean basins. Michael Fogarty, who heads the Ecosystem Assessment Program, said that these rising temperatures change the ecosystem, and eventually everyone must adapt to these changes.