I read the post that John wrote earlier today and I really like the mission name we have adopted for this trip, "Butterfish Moon". The F/V Karen Elizabeth (below) left dock today for an 8 day trip in the Mid-Atlantic Bight. They will be guided by their knowledge of the ocean, the capability of the boat, and of course the butterfish habitat model! I am very excited to see how much we will learn about the ocean and its ecosystem in the next 10 days.
The latest butterfish model for December 9th shows several regions of preferable habitat for butterfish. A large region South of Martha's Vineyard stretches across the entire shelf. Further south there are two areas along the shelf break off the mouth of Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay (below).
We want to make sure that we sample the high and low areas of the model. We have set the game plan to focus on both the mid-shelf and outer shelf. The first full day of the trip will focus on the 'hotspot' south of Martha's Vineyard. Under the butterfish moon they will sample the midshelf in a region where the model is predicting more suitable habitat for Butterfish. They will spend about a day and a half in this region going between the mid-shelf and shelf break.
We spent much of the last two days looking closely at the environmental data that went into the model. Avijit Gangopadhyay is an ocean forecaster at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He has been tracking a large warm meander of the Gulfstream that is right up against the shelf, south of Martha's Vineyard. The great image from Jennifer Clark, above, shows the meander of warm water from the Gulfstream getting very close to the shelf break. Jennifer is an expert on Gulfstream oceanography. Check out her site here: http://users.erols.com/gulfstrm/. Thank you Avijit and Jennifer for contributing to the blog.
This meander is likely impacting the habitat characteristics over the immediate shelf. We think that part of this impact is seen in the preferred habitat identified in the Butterfish model. The Karen Elizabeth will be there tonight taking a much closer look!