Watery heatwave cooks the Gulf of Maine

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Most of us are familiar with heat waves on land, but in a warming world, heat waves are starting to become common in the ocean, too. One basin in particular, the normally cool Gulf of Maine in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, has seen several heat waves in recent years and has spent most of 2018 with unusually warm water temperatures.

On August 8, 2018, scientists using satellite data and sea-based sensors measured the second warmest sea surface temperatures ever observed in the Gulf of Maine. Average water temperatures reached 20.52 degrees Celsius (68.93 degrees Fahrenheit) that day, just 0.03°C (0.05°F) below the record set in 2012.

The maps on this page show sea surface temperature anomalies as compiled by NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, which blends observations from the Suomi NPP, MTSAT, Meteosat, and GOES satellites and from computer models. Shades of red and blue indicate how much water temperatures were above or below the long-term average for the region. The map above shows conditions on August 8, the near-record setting day, while the map below shows conditions across the entire month of August 2018.

The heatwave of 2018 fits with a much longer trend in the region, which is among