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The Gulf of Maine had one of its hottest years in 2023, part of a worldwide trend

FILE - A pair of North Atlantic right whales interact at the surface of Cape Cod Bay, March 27, 2023, in Massachusetts. A report issued April 2024 from the Portland, Maine-based Gulf of Maine Research Institute stated that the Gulf of Maine experienced its fifth warmest year on record last year. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, NOAA permit # 21371)
Robert F. Bukaty/AP
/
AP
FILE - A pair of North Atlantic right whales interact at the surface of Cape Cod Bay, March 27, 2023, in Massachusetts. A report issued April 2024 from the Portland, Maine-based Gulf of Maine Research Institute stated that the Gulf of Maine experienced its fifth warmest year on record last year. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, NOAA permit # 21371)

The sea off New England, already warming faster than most of the world's oceans, had one of its hottest years on record in 2023.

The Gulf of Maine, which abuts New England and Canada, had an annual sea surface temperature nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal last year, scientists with the Portland, Maine-based Gulf of Maine Research Institute said Monday.

The institute said it was the fifth-warmest year on record for the Gulf of Maine, a body of water critical to commercial fishing and other maritime industries.

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The Gulf of Maine has emerged as a case study for the warming of the world's oceans in the last 10 years, and the research institute said in a statement that last year's warming was "consistent with the long-term trend of increasingly warm conditions driven primarily by" climate change.

The early portion of the year was especially warm, said Dave Reidmiller, director of the Climate Center at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

"It's consistent with that long-term trend. It also was extremely dominated by extraordinary warmth in the early quarter of the year," Reidmiller said. "The Gulf of Maine continues to warm at three times the global average."

While 2023 wasn't the hottest year on record in the Gulf of Maine — that was 2021 — it was a notably hot year by numerous metrics. The first four months of 2023 had an average monthly sea surface temperature that was in the top three warmest overall years on record, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute said in a report released earlier this year.

February, March and April all set new records for highest monthly sea surface temperature in the Gulf of Maine, the report said. There were also many new daily records for sea surface temperature, especially in February and March, the report said.

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The higher temperatures are bringing changes such as different species of fish getting caught in fishers' nets, Reidmiller said. The warming temperatures also bring an increased threat from sea level rise to coastal communities, he said.

"Taken as a whole, the complete picture of conditions for the Gulf of Maine reveal a region experiencing profound changes," the institute said in a statment.

The data about the warming of the Gulf of Maine arrive as global heat records are falling with increasing regularity. February of this year was the hottest February every recorded.


The By Degrees Climate Summit, presented by NHPR in collaboration with NHPBS, is May 23 at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. Register for the summit here.

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