Understanding the effects of increased warm core rings

Study results show extreme warming conditions occurring from the Mid-Atlantic Bight to Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank may be due to an upsurge of warm core rings over a period of years.

Continental shelf waters along the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States have been rapidly changing over the last decade. Results of a newly released study titled “An Observed Regime Shift in the Formation of Warm Core Rings from the Gulf Stream” show that an increase in warm core rings (WCRs).

WCRs, which are mesoscale eddies that break off from ocean currents, may contribute to extreme warming conditions in the water masses from the Mid-Atlantic Bight to the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank, along and across the Shelf break Front, in the slope waters and on the Labrador Shelf all the way into the Arctic.

The article, recently published in Nature, indicates that the increase in WCRs has likely had an impact on marine ecosystems since the year 2000, and that the number of WCRs increased to 33 annually during 2000 through 2017 from an average of 18 during 1980-1999.

Figure: Annual WCR births (interannual variability of the WCR formation between 1980 and 2017).

“This study presents the first results from a comprehensive analysis based on a rigorous census developed from a 38-year-long database,” said Avijit Gangopadhyay, professor of oceanography at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology, who led the study.

“A primary objective of this study is to determine the spatial variation of the seasonal and inter-annual variability of warm core ring formation along the Gulf Stream path." A systematic study of how warm core rings are formed and distributed helps scientists understand the impact of the rings on the underlying ecosystem, its habitats, and wildlife. “Fisheries and wind farms are affected by warm core rings," said Gangopadhyay. "Warm core rings might increase the intensity of storms, which might affect the development of offshore wind farms. Storms are intensified once on these rings.”

Read the complete research article.

About Avijit Gangopadhyay

Avijit Gangopadhyay is a professor of oceanography in the Department of Estuarine and Ocean Sciences at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology. Gangopadhyay’s research interests include ocean circulation and numerical modeling, application of mesoscale and finer resolution models for operational synoptic ocean forecasting, and understanding the multi-scale response of ecosystems to multi-scale climatic forcing.


Estuarine and Ocean Sciences Dept, School for Marine Science and Technology, School for Marine Science and Technology Intercampus Marine Science