New paper published: “Decadal variability on the Northwest European continental shelf”

Jones, S., Cottier, F., Inall, M., & Griffiths, C. (2018). Decadal variability on the Northwest European continental shelf. Progress in Oceanography, doi: 10.1016/j.pocean.2018.01.012

This paper details one of the key outcomes from my PhD so it was good to get it finished!  It describes how wind acting over the shallow seas west of Scotland can change the origin of waters on the inner continental shelf (and the coast).  This region typically recieves a mix of salty, nutrient rich water from the Atlantic and fresher, relatively nutrient poor water from the Irish Sea.  1-2 months of sustained easterly winds can block the inflow of Atlantic water and drive a pulse of Irish Sea water into the region, potentially importing much greater abundances of Irish Sea organisms and pollutants than during a typical year.  This body of water is detectable on the continental shelf for several months before it it fully displaced northwards.  Conversely, sustained winter storms can drive Atlantic water far onto the shelf and block the outflow from the Irish Sea, bringing oceanic conditions to what would normally be considered coastal locations.  The strong variability which results is roughly an order of magnitude greater than the changes seen in the adjacent Northeast Atlantic so is thought to mask the well documented decadal changes in these waters.

Map of waters off western Scotland.  Black rectangles show the position of Ellett Line stations on the continental shelf.
plot5 effort 1
Time series of surface salinity from Ellett Line stations on the continental shelf.  x-axis depicts longitude, between the shelf edge (left) and the Scottish coastline (right). (a) shows surface salinity, where brown colours indicate high salinity oceanic water and blue shows lower salinity coastal water. (b) shows the mean salinity across the shelf for each year.  (c) shows the salinity anomaly calculated by subtracting the mean of each station from the data, and (d) depicts the mean surface salinity for each station.  The grey region gives the standard deviation of the data which is a measure of the variability present.

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