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Research Document - 2002/047

Physical environmental conditions in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence during 2001

By K.F. Drinkwater, R.G. Pettipas and W.M. Petrie


Physical environmental conditions in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (Magdalen Shallows) during 2001 were examined from air temperature, sea ice and oceanographic data. Air temperatures over the southern Gulf were above normal through most of 2001, and rose relative to 2000. It was the second warmest year on record in Chatham, N.B. and on the Magdalen Islands and the seventh warmest in Charlottetown, whose records span over 125 years. Warmer air temperatures led to generally less ice than usual over the outer regions of the Shallows towards the Laurentian Channel. However, in the inner reaches, including Northumberland Strait, it was a heavy ice year. Ocean temperatures throughout the Shallows varied spatially, both in the bottom and surface layers. The general trend was towards cooler bottom waters in 2001 as indicated by the large increase in the bottom covered by 0-1 degree C water, the generally colder-than-normal temperatures in the 50 to 100 m depth range over the Shallows, the decline in the core temperature of the CIL (cold intermediate layer) throughout the Gulf, and the large portion of the Shallows that recorded below normal temperatures during the fisheries surveys. However, in spite of this general cooler trend, there was a decrease bottom area covered by waters <0 degree C and significant portions of the Shallows showed above normal temperatures. Also, the surface waters generally showed very high temperatures, reflecting the above normal air temperatures.

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