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  1. Abstract

    The Gulf of Maine North Atlantic Time Series (GNATS) has been run since 1998, across the Gulf of Maine (GoM), between Maine and Nova Scotia. GNATS goals are to provide ocean color satellite validation and to examine change in this coastal ecosystem. We have sampled hydrographical, biological, chemical, biogeochemical, and bio‐optical variables. After 2008, warm water intrusions (likely North Atlantic Slope Water [NASW]) were observed in the eastern GoM at 50–180 m depths. Shallow waters (<50 m) significantly warmed in winter, summer, and fall butcooledduring spring. Surface salinity and density of the GoM also significantly increased over the 20 years. Phytoplankton standing stock and primary production showed highly‐significant decreases during the period. Concentrations of phosphate increased, silicate decreased, residual nitrate [N*; nitrate‐silicate] increased, and the ratio of dissolved inorganic nitrogen:phosphate decreased, suggesting increasing nitrogen limitation. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and its optical indices generally increased over two decades, suggesting changes to the DOC cycle. Surface seawater carbonate chemistry showed winter periods where the aragonite saturation (Ωar) dropped below 1.6 gulf‐wide due to upward winter mixing of cool, corrosive water. However, associated with increased average GoM temperatures, Ωarhas significantly increased. These results reinforce the hypothesis that the observed decrease in surface GoM primary production resulted from a switch from Labrador Sea Water to NASW entering the GoM. A multifactor analysis shows that decreasing GoM primary production is most significantly correlated to decreases in chlorophyll and particulate organic carbon plus increases in N* and temperature.

     
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  2. Oceanographic changes are occurring more rapidly in recent decades, with new implications for ocean ecosystems and adjacent human communities. It is important to bring attention to these changes while they are unfolding rather than after they have occurred. Here we report on a rapid shift toward colder, fresher water in the deep Gulf of Maine that, as of mid-June 2024, has persisted for at least six months. The shift likely represents an influx of Labrador Slope Water and resembles conditions that predated a major warming shift that occurred in 2011–2012. Deep-water oceanographic conditions in the Gulf of Maine have a strong influence on ecosystem dynamics, including the prey of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, the seasonal and disease dynamics of American lobster, and the distribution and abundance of kelp forest communities, among others. Oceanographic surprises have an important role in this system, and monitoring how this shift unfolds, oceanographically and ecologically, will give new insights into how oceanographic signals can inform our understanding of ecosystem responses. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2025
  3. Woodson, C Brock (Ed.)
    Abstract Predicting the impact of marine ecosystem warming on the timing and magnitude of phytoplankton production is challenging. For example, warming can advance the progression of stratification thereby changing the availability of nutrients to surface phytoplankton, or influence the surface mixed layer depth, thus affecting light availability. Here, we use a time series of sea surface temperature (SST) and chlorophyll remote sensing products to characterize the response of the phytoplankton community to increased temperature in the Northeast US Shelf Ecosystem. The rate of change in SST was higher in the summer than in winter in all ecoregions resulting in little change in the timing and magnitude of the spring thermal transition compared to a significant change in the autumn transition. Along with little phenological shift in spring thermal conditions, there was also no evidence of a change in spring bloom timing and duration. However, we observed a change in autumn bloom timing in the Georges Bank ecoregion, where bloom initiation has shifted from late September to late October between 1998 and 2020—on average 33 d later. Bloom duration in this ecoregion also shortened from ∼7.5 to 5 weeks. The shortened autumn bloom may be caused by later overturn in stratification known to initiate autumn blooms in the region, whereas the timing of light limitation at the end of the bloom remains unchanged.  These changes in bloom timing and duration appear to be related to the change in autumn thermal conditions and the significant shift in autumn thermal transition. These results suggest that the spring bloom phenology in this temperate continental shelf ecosystem may be more resilient to thermal climate change effects than blooms occurring in other times of the year. 
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  4. The oceanography of the Gulf of Maine has recently changed in ways that have not been seen previously, but that are likely to be more common in the future. Because of the rapid rate of change, some view the Gulf of Maine as a window into the ocean’s future with the idea that lessons learned can be applied in places that have yet to experience similar rapid changes. Based on a formal statistical definition of oceanographic surprises, the frequency of surprises in the Gulf of Maine is higher and has increased faster than ex- pected even given underlying trends. The analysis suggests that we should expect new kinds of surprises that are characteristically different from previ- ous ones. The implication for policymaking is that in addition to considering long-term environmental changes, it is important to consider scenarios of sudden, unexpected, and potentially extreme environmental changes. 
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