The Seascapes

The Seascapes

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The "Butterfish Smackdown" VII "Uh Oh! This afternoon I leave for Rhode Island........"

What I saw in the distance from my bedroom window this morning.

A gull hung nearly motionless against the blue; teetering only slightly on its wings to keep its balance on the winds high wire.  But wait, I was still at home.  I blinked twice to clear sleeps last confusion from my eyes. Outside the wind was gusting to 40 knots and the air temperature was 40 degrees at the Ambrose buoy off the entrance to New York Harbor.  Outside my bedroom window and behind the Sandy Hook Peninsula, the sea was grey except where it rolled over white which was nearly everywhere.  Uh Oh! This afternoon I leave for Rhode Island, the “Karen Elizabeth”, and our “cruise” to the edge of the continental shelf to test our dynamic habitat model.

I hurried to pack the last few things; some books, a hat, a scarf and gloves, and my survival suit and headed off to Rutgers for the last bit of bench testing and our final preparations.  Laura, Josh and I met first thing to develop a “playbook” for adaptively sampling the dynamic habitat model.  Matt Oliver, our satellite oceanographer, skyped in from the University of Delaware to help, and we reviewed the last few days habitat predictions along with the satellite and HF radar surface current measurements that informed them.

Conditions are unseasonably warm in some areas of the mid Atlantic Bight for this time of year, and our model runs showed a hotspot still south of Martha’s vineyard, as well as east of Delaware and Cheseapeake Bays in locations similar to those we observed in Fall 2010 hindcast posted below.  So we have decided to fish standardized tows in habitats predicted to be “good” and “bad” in those 3 areas.  However, because the suns elevation (ie time of day) seems to make such a big difference, we have also decided to fish the “good” and “bad” habitats in the three areas during both the day and night so that our analysis is balanced.  We are pretty sure this will take less than the 7 days we have allotted to us on the “Karen Elizabeth”.  So on the way back up north, when we are not sampling model evaluation sites, we hope Chris will fish as efficiently and as effectively as he usually does.  We think we can learn a lot about the ecology of butterfish, squid and other animals by listening to him and watching him fish.

Josh Kohut, myself and Laura Palamara infront of todays butterfish habitat nowcast overlaid on sea surface temperature in google earth on flatscreen wall monitors in the Rutgers Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory, RUCOOL.  Also known as:  "Mission Control for the Ocean"

After putting together the outline of our adaptive sampling “playbook” we did one more bench test of our communications and prediction system.  This included putting the most recent butterfish habitat nowcast up on the 8 foot by 10 foot flatscreen monitors in the Coastal Ocean Observations Laboratory.  We stood in “mission control for the ocean” for at least 20 minutes lost in a discussion about what was driving the dynamics of butterfish habitat based on google earth overlays of the daily satellite images, HF radar surface currents, and our habitat predictions.  We could have spent hours overlaying data on that big screen discussing the way the ocean and its animals work. We probably will when this field experiment is over.  But it was getting late and Laura helped Josh and I pack up the equipment and get in the van bound for Rhode Island and the “Karen Elizabeth”.

Daily sea surface temperature anomaly for the North Atlantic showing relatively warm temperatures in coastal waters from Chesapeake bay north into Canada.  These data are available here.

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