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Mean sea surface temperature over the southern New England shelf from AVHRR satellite data during winter (January-March). Note the cooler water over Nantucket shoals to the east, compared with the inner shelves of New York and Rhode Island to the west. Red square indicates the location of the Martha's Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO). (data source: MARACOOS (

Interannual variability of wintertime temperature on the inner shelf of the Mid-Atlantic Bight


Steve Lentz (WHOI)

The shallow depth of the inner continental shelf allows for rapid adjustment of the ocean to air-sea exchange of heat and momentum compared with offshore locations. In this project, observations during 2001-2013 are used to evaluate the contributions of air-sea heat flux and advection of large-scale anomalies to interannual variability of inner-shelf temperature in the Mid-Atlantic Bight. Annual temperature anomalies from the New England and North Carolina inner shelves are significantly correlated, and winter anomalies explain most of the variance of the annual anomalies.

At the Martha's Vineyard Coastal Observatory on the 12-m isobath, a heat budget is used to test the hypothesis that interannual differences in winter temperatures are due solely to air-sea heat flux. Bimonthly averages of air-sea heat flux are correlated with temporal changes in temperature, but overestimate the observed wintertime cooling. Velocity and satellite-derived temperature data show that surface cooling during winter storms is partially compensated for by alongshore advection of warmer water from the west at this particular location. However, air-sea heat flux generally has a larger-scale influence on inner-shelf temperature at interannual time scales shorter than decades.

Connolly, T. P. and S. J. Lentz, 2014. Interannual variability of wintertime temperature on the inner continental shelf of the Middle Atlantic Bight. J. Geophys. Res.
doi: 10.1002/2014JC010153

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