Revisiting the Great Salinity Anomaly of the 1970s

  • 4 November 2020
Revisiting the Great Salinity Anomaly of the 1970s

The Great Salinity Anomaly of the 1970s is the most dramatic decadal-scale, low salinity event observed in the subpolar North Atlantic. Originally the event was thought to be caused by a dramatic influx of freshwater into the region. Researchers, funded by both CPO’s Climate Variability & Predictability (CVP) program and the Department of Energy (DOE), used simulation modeling to offer an alternative view of the Great Salinity Anomaly and possible drivers of the shutdown of the Labrador Sea deep convection.

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and extreme Fram Strait sea-ice export (FSSIE) are two possible drivers. Surprisingly, researchers found that the reduced surface heat flux (driven by the negative phase NAO) played a bigger role in shutting down Labrador Sea convection than previously thought, rather than the role of Fram Strait sea-ice export (i.e., freshwater) during this low-salinity event.

These results, published in the Journal of Climate, are challenging long-standing thoughts on the development of the 1970's low salinity event in the North Atlantic/Labrador Sea. These findings also have implications for Atlantic teleconnections, given an anticipated increase in freshwater input from Greenland and Arctic due to a warming climate in the future.

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Climate and Fisheries Adaptation Program (CAFA)

MISSION: The Climate and Fisheries Adaptation Program (CAFA) is a partnership between the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NOAA Research) Climate Program Office, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) Office of Science and Technology that supports targeted research to promote adaptation and resilience of the nation's valuable fisheries and fisheries-dependent communities in a changing climate. By bringing together NOAA scientists with many partners, CAFA addresses priority needs for information and tools identified in the NOAA Fisheries Climate Science StrategyRegional Action Plans, and other sources.  

ISSUE: Healthy fisheries are a significant component of the U.S. economy. Commercial and recreational marine fisheries generate over $200 billion in economic activity and support more than 1.8 million jobs annually (FEUS 2016). Fisheries also support working waterfronts and coastal communities, provide opportunities for commerce, are tied to rich cultures, and help meet the growing demand for seafood across the U.S. and the world.

Climate change is impacting fish stocks, fisheries, and fishing communities, and these impacts are expected to increase. Changing climate and ocean conditions (e.g. warming oceans, changing currents, coastal inundation, extreme events, etc.) can affect the abundance, distribution, and productivity of fish stocks that support economically important fisheries. Sustainable fisheries management requires an improved understanding of how climate, fishing, and other stressors interact to affect fish stocks (including their habitats and prey), fisheries and fishing-dependent communities.  

PROGRAM HISTORY: The CAFA Program was established by the NOAA Research Climate Program Office and the NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology in 2014 to advance understanding of climate‐related impacts on fish stocks, fisheries and fishing communities. The partnership originated through the former Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications (COCA) Program and in 2021 was renamed the Climate and Fisheries Adaptation (CAFA) Program as part of the Climate Program Office Adaptation Sciences Program.

SPONSORS: Funding for the CAFA Program comes from the OAR Climate Program Office and the NMFS Office of Science and Technology, the Office of Sustainable Fisheries, and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. 

 

 

 

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