Warming Temperatures Causing Changes to the Gulf of Maine

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 by Kim Little

It is a known fact that temperatures in the Gulf of Maine (GOM) have slowly been increasing, but so what? Why is that so important? It just means we get to put on shorts sooner, right? Let me explain.

Changes in temperature affect many different aspects of the world we live in. We can see some of these changes right here in the GOM. As stated in the previous post one of the reasons the GOM is a unique place is due to the Labrador Current bringing in cold nutrient rich water (ocean currents map). However, the water chemistry of the Labrador Current has been changing. The rise in temperature has been causing some of the polar ice caps to melt, meaning that more freshwater is entering the ocean and therefore the Labrador Current. This has caused the salinity (salt content of the water) to decrease. This water is then flowing and mixing into the GOM, causing its salinity to decrease as well. Why is salinity important? How might a decrease in salinity affect the organisms living in the GOM?


Climatologists have said that because of global climate change storm activity has been increasing.  Of the top 8 rainiest years since 1895, 4 of those have occurred since 2005. All of that water has to go somewhere, right? While some of it is stored in the ground, the rest runs off into freshwater resources (streams, rivers, lakes, etc). For the GOM, all the freshwater resources within its watershed flow into and mix with the saltwater in the GOM, adding to the recent decrease in salinity. It also means that all the debris that runs off the land into the rivers and lakes flows into the GOM as well. How might that affect the organisms living in the GOM?

Temperature also affects the organisms living within the GOM. Scientists say that evidence suggests that last year the temperature in the GOM rose 1.5 degrees. Some marine organisms are more sensitive to changes in temperature than others. It is believed that this change in temperature might be the reason why we have seen a decrease in shrimp. However, that rise in temperature might also be the reason why we have seen a boost in scallop growth and higher lobster catches.

Have you seen any changes near you? Do you think they may be due to a change in temperature?


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