Abstract

Projected climate changes along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts were examined using the eddy-resolving Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS). First, a control (CTRL) ROMS simulation was performed using boundary conditions derived from observations. Then climate change signals, obtained as mean seasonal cycle differences between the recent past (1976–2005) and future (2070–99) periods in a coupled global climate model under the RCP8.5 greenhouse gas trajectory, were added to the initial and boundary conditions of the CTRL in a second (RCP85) ROMS simulation. The differences between the RCP85 and CTRL simulations were used to investigate the regional effects of climate change. Relative to the coarse-resolution coupled climate model, the downscaled projection shows that SST changes become more pronounced near the U.S. East Coast, and the Gulf Stream is further reduced in speed and shifted southward. Moreover, the downscaled projection shows enhanced warming of ocean bottom temperatures along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts, particularly in the Gulf of Maine and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The enhanced warming was related to an improved representation of the ocean circulation, including topographically trapped coastal ocean currents and slope water intrusion through the Northeast Channel into the Gulf of Maine. In response to increased radiative forcing, much warmer than present-day Labrador Subarctic Slope Waters entered the Gulf of Maine through the Northeast Channel, warming the deeper portions of the gulf by more than 4°C.

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