According to the latest Ecosystem Advisory issued by NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), sea surface temperature (SST) for the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem reached a record high of 14 degrees Celsius in 2012, exceeding the previous record high in 1951. Average SST has typically been lower than 12.4 C over the past three decades.
SST in the region is based on both contemporary satellite remote-sensing data and long-term ship-board measurements, with historical SST conditions based on ship-board measurements dating back to 1854. The increase in 2012 was the highest raise in temperature seen in the time series and one of only five times it has changed by more than 1 C.
The raise is also affecting distributions of fish and shellfish on the Northeast Shelf.
The advisory provides data on changes in distribution, or shifts in the center of the population, of seven key fishery species over time. The four southern species - black sea bass, summer flounder, longfin squid and butterfish - all showed a northeastward or upshelf shift.
American lobster has shifted upshelf over time but at a slower rate than the southern species and Atlantic cod and haddock have shifted downshelf.
Warming conditions on the Northeast Shelf in the spring of 2012 continued into September, with the most consistent warming conditions seen in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank.
Temperatures cooled by October and were below average in the Middle Atlantic Bight in November, perhaps due to Superstorm Sandy, but had returned to above average conditions by December.