Seals in Gulf of St. Lawrence

New Study Suggests Canadian Gulf Losing Oxygen Levels, May Be Unable to Support Life

Natasha Vashist - Author

Sep. 18 2018, Updated 10:04 a.m. ET

According to a recent study led by the University of Washington (UW), deoxygenation in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence may lead to loss of marine animal life.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, tracked temperature and oxygen level due to large-scale ocean circulation in Canada’s eastern coast.

Using a high-resolution computer model called Geophysical Fluid Dynamics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a simulation of the world’s ocean was observed for nine months.

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The study examined two powerful oceanic currents that may be warming the waters and reducing it’s ability to hold oxygen: the Gulf Stream (which has less oxygen exchange between the top and bottom layers of the ocean) and the Labrador Current (which is rich in oxygen and remains colder from storms in the Labrador Sea).

The models showed the Gulf Stream was shifting further north. This, coupled with a weaker Labrador current, resulted in oxygen-poor warm water entering the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“Observations in the very inner Gulf of St. Lawrence show a dramatic oxygen decline, which is reaching hypoxic conditions, meaning it can’t fully support marine life,” said Moriana Claret, lead researcher for the study at UW’s Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and the Ocean.


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