Figure 1 – courtesy of NOAA/NESDIS
The stage is now set for the New Year of 2017, with ocean temperature anomalies in most of the world’s oceans starting the year in a decidedly positive state, even though the El Niño event of 2015/16 has now finished. Figure 2 for example shows the latest North Atlantic Ocean SST, and the cold anomalies that seem to have been around for so long in the central Atlantic at around 50°N and 40°W are now much reduced in size and squeezed further north. The other thing to notice is the exceptionally warm anomalies of +3°C and +4°C wrapped around three sides of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean, and to a lesser accent in the Denmark Straits between Iceland and Greenland.
Figure 2 – Courtesy of NCOF
Figure 3 is a detailed look at the SST along the eastern seaboard of North America in more detail, and that never-ending stream of anomalously warm water that’s spilling into the Western Atlantic as if someone’s left the warm tap on and forgot about it.
Figure 3 – Courtesy of NCOF
Don’t mix up these SST anomaly charts with the Gulf Stream (or more accurately with the North Atlantic drift), SST anomalies and ocean currents are not the same thing, but it does look like the Gulf stream has pushed bodily further north, and the cold Labrador current that runs south along the North American coast does seem to be having a torrid time of it maintaining the ‘cold wall’ south of Nova Scotia.
Figure 4 – Courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica
There are a number of different methods to fix the exact position of the Gulf Stream and they are:
- The Global Real Time Ocean Forecast System model [RTOFS]
- The Navy Coastal Ocean Model [NCOM]
- The Naval Oceanographic Office [NAVO] Gulf Stream analysis.
The position of the north wall of the Gulf Stream is estimated from the 12°C isotherm at 400 meters of the various global ocean models, but the NAVO Gulf Stream north wall is estimated by analysts using satellite AVHRR SST, ship and buoy data. Figure 5 shows the results from the three methods, and as you will notice none of them align with the SST anomalies in figure 3.
Figure 5 – Courtesy of NOAA/OPC
Figure 6 shows the strength of the Gulf Stream at the moment, and it looks pretty healthy, moving along at around 3 knots. The OPC site is not one you may visit that often, but is very useful nonetheless. So we can keep on hold any thoughts of any ‘Day after tomorrow‘ scenario for the time being.
Figure 6 – Courtesy of NOAA/OPC