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Journal of Geophysical Research








Data from 2872 hydrographic stations have been used to determine the oceanographie climatology of the southeastern United States continental shelf waters. The data were sorted by each degree of latitude and by depth into three zones (0–20 m, 21–40 m, 41–60 m). Inner shelf water temperatures were similar to adjacent land air temperatures, while outer shelf temperatures were moderated by the Gulf Stream. Minimum and maximum water temperatures occurred in Georgia and South Carolina inner shelf water. Bottom temperatures were unusually low off Florida in the summer probably because of shelf break upwelling. Surface salinity was lowest adjacent to the rivers and reached minimums in the spring at the time of high runoff. An exception to this occurred in the fall, when strong southward winds apparently advected low salinity coastal water southward and offshore flow was restricted. Heat flux was calculated from changes in monthly mean depth-averaged inner shelf water temperatures. Heating occurred from March through July with maximum rates of 103 W m−2. Cooling occurred from October through February with maximum rates of −90 W m−2. Bulk stratification was estimated from the difference in near-surface and near-bottom monthly mean density. In the spring, stratification increases in inner shelf areas because of decreasing winds and increasing heat flux and runoff. By summer the whole shelf is highly stratified reflecting the contrast between high surface water temperatures and cooler bottom waters. Highest bulk stratification is found over the outer shelf. Stratification decreased with the approach offall with the associated cooling and high winds. Mean flow at midshelf was northward and appears to be produced by an along-shelf slope of sea level of oceanic origin.

Original Publication Citation

Atkinson, L. P., Blanton, J., Chandler, W., & Lee, T. (1983). Climatology of the southeastern United States continental shelf waters. Journal of Geophysical Research, 88(C8), 4705-4718.

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