Pacific climate influences on ocean conditions and extreme shell growth events in the Northwestern Atlantic (Gulf of Maine)

Alan D. Wanamaker, Shelly M. Griffin, Caroline C. Ummenhofer, Nina M. Whitney, Bryan Black, Rhys Parfitt, Erin E. Lower-Spies, Douglas Introne, Karl J. Kreutz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The Gulf of Maine is undergoing rapid environmental and ecological changes, yet our spatial and temporal understanding of the climatic and hydrographic variability in this region, including extreme events, is limited and biased to recent decades. In this study, we utilize a highly replicated, multi-century master shell growth chronology derived from the annual increments formed in the shells of the long-lived bivalve Arctica islandica collected in 38 m from the central coastal region in the Gulf of Maine. Our results indicate that shell growth is highly synchronous and inversely related to local seawater temperatures. Using composite analyses of extreme shell growth events from CE 1900 to 2013, we extend our understanding of the factors driving oceanic variability and shell growth in the Northwestern Atlantic back to CE 1761. We suggest that extreme shell growth events are primarily controlled by Gulf of Maine sea surface temperature (SST) and stratification conditions, which in turn appear to be largely influenced by SST patterns in the Pacific Ocean through their influence on mid-latitude atmospheric circulation patterns and the location of the eddy-driven jet. The large-scale jet dynamics during these extreme years manifest as precipitation and moisture transport anomalies and regional SST conditions in the Gulf of Maine that either enhance or inhibit shell growth. Pacific climate variability is thus an important, yet understudied, influence on Gulf of Maine ocean conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6339-6356
Number of pages18
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 14 2019


  • Chronology
  • Crossdating
  • ENSO
  • Eddy-driven jet
  • Extreme events
  • Gulf of Maine
  • Pacific Decadal Oscillation
  • Sclerochronology
  • Shell growth
  • Teleconnection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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