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Seasonal to interannual ocean habitat forecasts for the Northeast U.S. Large Marine Ecosystem

Many fisheries management decisions are made at the subseasonal to interannual time scales,
and informing these decisions with skillful climate and ocean forecasts may improve both the
yield and the sustainability of the fishery. Although modern global climate forecast systems can
skillfully forecast sea surface temperature and other relevant variables for many parts of the
globe, these forecast systems consistently lack skill in the Northeast United States Large Marine
Ecosystem (NEUS LME). Concurrent research, however, suggests strong linkages between
NEUS LME responses and predictable large-scale modes of climate variability that are
modulated by coastal circulation processes. We thus hypothesize that NEUS-LME ocean and
biogeochemical conditions may be predictable with a model that resolves the regional circulation
and bathymetric features that control the connections between basin-scale processes (e.g., the
Gulf Stream and Labrador Current) and shelf-scale physical and biogeochemical conditions. We
propose to test this hypothesis by developing downscaled seasonal to interannual ocean forecasts
using a state-of-the-art ocean model developed using NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory’s
MOM6 ocean model (Adcroft et al., 2019).

We will use the new regional modeling capacity built into MOM6 to calibrate and evaluate a
regional ocean model that includes the NEUS and the broader Northwest Atlantic Ocean. We
will use this model to downscale seasonal to interannual forecasts from NOAA’s global climate
prediction systems and will assess whether the higher resolution model improves the forecast
skill. After developing forecasts for temperature, salinity, and currents using MOM6, we will
explore applications of these forecasts to marine heatwaves and fish habitat. Furthermore, we
will develop a limited set of biogeochemical forecasts to assess how the mechanisms underlying
the physical prediction skill translate to predictable patterns of pH, chlorophyll, primary
production, and oxygen.

The proposed work closely aligns with multiple CPO/MAPP priorities. We will contribute to the
further development of and apply a state-of-the-art NOAA ocean model (MOM6) with
burgeoning potential for broad application across U.S. coastal waters. Our experiments will
elucidate mechanisms underlying coastal ocean and biogeochemical predictions, including
environmental extremes (e.g., ocean heat waves) that can have severe ecological and economic
consequences. This will improve NOAA’s capacity to anticipate and respond to climate impacts
on fisheries, protected species, and other marine resources, and is closely aligned with the
NOAA/NMFS Climate Science Strategy and Northeast Regional Action Plan. While the focus of
our proposed effort is the Northeast U.S., our model domain is coast-wide, enabling future
investigation of high-resolution ocean predictions for other regions. The proposed activities are
intended to ultimately build a sustained NOAA capacity for high-resolution seasonal to
interannual coastal ocean forecasts across U.S. coastal waters in support of NOAA’s economic
and conservation mandates.

Climate Risk Area: Marine Ecosystems

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