Research Document - 2007/024

Physical Oceanographic Conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2006

By Galbraith, P.S., D. Gilbert, C. Lafleur, P. Larouche, B. Pettigrew, J. Chassé, R.G. Pettipas and W.M. Petrie

Abstract

An overview of physical oceanographic conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2006 is presented. Air and surface water temperatures were above normal except for late summer in most parts of the Gulf. Bottom water temperatures on the Magdalen Shallows were unusually warm; no observations below 0°C were recorded in September. The yearly total freshwater runoff at Québec City was normal but included an anomalous strong fall peak. Sea ice coverage and volume within the Gulf during the winter was the lowest recorded since 1969. The winter cold mixed layer volume was the smallest recorded in the 11 year history of the winter helicopter survey and corresponded to 29% of the total water volume of the Gulf. This shallow winter mixed layer led to the CIL index for summer 2006 increasing to +0.21°C. This is the warmest value since 1983, but only 0.1°C warmer than in 2000 which was the second warmest. Regional patterns of the CIL minimum temperatures show that increases between 2005 and 2006 were more pronounced in the Laurentian Channel than elsewhere. The minimum temperature actually decreased in Mecatina Trough, presumably due to the increased inflow of a thick layer of cold and highly saline water, which was observed from the annual March survey, through the Strait of Belle Isle. Regional patterns similar to those found for the CIL minimum temperatures were seen in the regional CIL thickness distribution. The CIL volume (T < 1°C) for the Magdalen Shallows during the September groundfish survey was the lowest since 1982. Water temperatures were generally one standard deviation above the mean, based on the 1971-2000 climatology at all depths for most of the year. Exceptions to this included the CIL in Esquiman Channel and Mecatina Trough and the deeper waters (> 300 m) of the southern half of the Laurentian Channel which were colder. The most noteworthy thermal features in November were the anomalously deep CIL in the Estuary and northwestern Gulf regions and the anomalously warm waters above the CIL everywhere in the Gulf. The outlook for 2007 based on the March 2007 survey is for a 0.6°C cooling of the summer CIL index forecast from a thicker winter cold surface layer and increased inflow of Labrador Shelf water through the Strait of Belle Isle.

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