Coastal and regional marine heatwaves and cold spells in the northeastern Atlantic

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report describes an increase in the number and intensity of marine heatwaves (MHWs) and a decrease in marine cold spells (MCSs) in the global ocean. However, these reported changes are not uniform on a regional to local basis, and it remains unknown if coastal areas follow the open-ocean trends. Surface ocean temperature measurements collected by satellites (from 1982–2022) and 13 coastal buoys (from 1990–2022) are analyzed in the northeastern Atlantic and three subregions: the English Channel, Bay of Brest and Bay of Biscay. The activity metric, combining the number of events, intensity, duration and spatial extent, is used to evaluate the magnitude of these extreme events. The results from in situ and satellite datasets for each of the studied regions are quite in agreement, although the satellite dataset underestimates the amplitude of activity for both MHWs and MCSs. This supports the applicability of the method to both in situ and satellite data, albeit with caution on the amplitude of these events. Also, this localized study in European coastal northeastern Atlantic water highlights that similar changes are being seen in coastal and open oceans regarding extreme events of temperature, with MHWs being more frequent and longer and extending over larger areas, while the opposite is seen for MCSs. These trends can be explained by changes in both the mean of and variance in sea-surface temperature. In addition, the pace of evolution and dynamics of marine extreme events differ among the subregions. Among the three studied subregions, the English Channel is the region experiencing the strongest increase in summer MHW activity over the last 4 decades. Summer MHWs were very active in the English Channel in 2022 due to long events, in the Bay of Biscay in 2018 due to intense events and in the Bay of Brest in 2017 due to a high occurrence of events. Winter MCSs were the largest in 1987 and 1986 due to long and intense events in the English Channel. Finally, our findings suggest that at an interannual timescale, the positive North Atlantic Oscillation favors the generation of strong summer MHWs in the northeastern Atlantic, while low-pressure conditions over northern Europe and a high off the Iberian Peninsula in winter dominate for MCSs. A preliminary analysis of air–sea heat fluxes suggests that, in this region, reduced cloud coverage is a key parameter for the generation of summer MHWs, while strong winds and increased cloud coverage are important for the generation of winter MCSs.

Full Text

Publisher's official version
176 Mo
124 Mo
253 Mo
Supplement to the preprint
82 Mo
How to cite
Simon Amélie, Poppeschi Coline, Plecha Sandra, Charria Guillaume, Russo Ana (2023). Coastal and regional marine heatwaves and cold spells in the northeastern Atlantic. Ocean Science. 19 (5). 1339-1355.,

Copy this text