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Variations in Regional Climate Predictions for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Scotian Shelf, and Gulf of Maine


Projected sea surface temperature change in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, by season, showing 2046-2065 relative to 1985-2005 (as modelled by the regional downscaling system under a particular scenario).

Global Climate Models (GCMs) are useful tools when it comes to understanding potential climatic change for entire ocean basins, but they lack the spatial resolution that is necessary to provide accurate estimates of change that can occur over continental shelves or waters bounded by land. Higher spatial resolution is useful when considering the factors that are not handled well by GCMs, such as winds, precipitation, and runoff.

Results: Researchers developed a system used to increase the resolution of ocean climate models over the northwest Atlantic shelf. Their system consists of an atmospheric model, a hydrology model, and an ice-ocean coupled model. Using this system, researchers were able to create detailed simulations of local ocean dynamics over the period spanning 1970 to 2069 under three possible climate change scenarios. The results of this study increase the understanding of ecosystem variables that will be affected by climate change and help to identify potential changes such as species reorganization and displacement, growth of toxic algae, increasing disease and bacteria, decreasing sea ice cover, ocean acidification, and decreasing dissolved oxygen.

The model developed from this work has been used in another project that studies the thermal habitat of snow crab and lobster in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. So far, four reports and two scientific publications have resulted from this work.

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)


Atlantic: Gulf of Maine, Scotian Shelf

Principal Investigator(s)

Joël Chassé
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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