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Research Document - 2002/048

Overview of meteorological, sea ice and sea-surface temperature conditions off eastern Canada during 2001

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


A review of meteorological, sea ice and sea surface temperature conditions in the Northwest Atlantic during 2001 is presented. Annual mean air temperatures throughout most of the northwest Atlantic were warmer-than-normal. They generally increased relative to 2000 but were below the record setting temperatures of 1999. The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index was below normal and fell compared to its 2000 value. It was similar to the values of 1996-1998 and well below the levels seen in the cold period of the early 1990s. The high index means that the large-scale atmospheric circulation, including the Icelandic Low and Azores High, weakened in 2001. The Labrador Sea experienced predominantly more easterly winds than usual throughout most of the year. Sea ice on the southern Labrador and Newfoundland shelves generally appeared late and left early, resulting in a shorter duration of ice than usual. The ice coverage in these areas was lower than average. The number of icebergs reaching the Grand Banks in 2001 was only 89, almost a 10 fold decrease from the 843 icebergs observed in 2000. In the central Gulf of St. Lawrence, sea ice appeared late and disappeared early while the opposite (early arrival and late departure) was observed in the southwestern (inner Magdalen Shallows) and northeastern (Strait of Belle Isle) Gulf. Less ice than usual reached the Scotian Shelf while the areal coverage of ice in the Sydney Bight area off eastern Cape Breton was normal to less-than-normal. Sea-surface temperature throughout eastern Canadian waters were generally warmer-than-average in 2001.

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