September 23, 2012

Ocean warming??????

Ocean warming? Get used to this new phrase.

NOAA's ocean scientists just reported that 2012 sea surface temperatures along the northeast coast of the U.S. set all-time records. Lobsters are molting earlier and squid are moving into waters not usually theirs.

The average sea surface temperature exceeded 51°F during the first half of 2012, exceeding the previous record high set in 1951.  The average  surface water temp has typically been lower than 48°F over the past three decades, so this is a big deal for the critters in the ocean.

In some locations like the Chesapeake Bay (in the Middle Atlantic Bight region), temperatures were more than 11°F above historical average at the surface and more than 9°F above average at the bottom. 

What does this mean to marine ecosystems? Plankton were the first to respond, blooming earlier than ever. Cod moved farther northeast and the fishermen followed. Lobsters thrived in Maine waters this summer, as did crabs and oysters in the Chesapeake. Prices for all three dropped as the supply increased.

Even Captain Pete jumped into Chesapeake waters this late September weekend to scrape barnacles off our sailboat's propeller. That can be called "captain change."