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Research Document 2022/040

Physical Oceanographic Conditions on the Newfoundland and Labrador Shelf during 2021

By Cyr, F., Snook, S., Bishop, C., Galbraith, P.S., Chen, N., and Han, G.


An overview of physical oceanographic conditions in the Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Region during 2021 is presented in support of the Atlantic Zone Monitoring Program (AZMP). The winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index, a key indicator of the direction and intensity of the winter wind field patterns over the Northwest (NW) Atlantic, was negative after seven consecutive years on the positive side (colder conditions), including a record high value in 2015. The large majority of the environmental parameters presented in this report were above normal (defined as the average over the 1991–2020 climatological period). The annual average air temperature at five sites around the NW Atlantic was above normal, including a record-high in Bonavista. When considering the winter period, record-highs warm temperatures were established at Iqaluit, Bonavista and St. John’s, and the second warmest winter on record was observed in Cartwright. The sea-ice season volume and area across the Newfoundland and Labrador Shelf was at its third lowest level (after 2010 and 2011) since the beginning of the time series in 1969. Only one iceberg was observed drifting south of 48°N. Ice-free seasons sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the NW Atlantic were slightly warmer than normal. Observations from the summer AZMP oceanographic survey indicate that the cold intermediate layer (CIL) area along Seal Island, Bonavista Bay and Flemish Cap section was at its third lowest (indicating warm conditions) since 1950 (after 1965 and 1966). This contrast with 2014–17 where the volume was above normal (cold conditions). Spatially-averaged bottom temperatures in Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) divisions 3Ps (spring) and 2J3K (fall) were at their second warmest since 1980, including a record in 3Ps. The transport on the Scotian Slope in 2021 remained below normal for eight consecutive years at -1.4 standard deviation (SD). The NL climate index was at a record-high in 2021 (tied with 2010 and 1966).

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