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

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


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.


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



This work is funded by the National Science Foundation (OCE 1003438 and OCE 1003423) to ADW and KJK. CCU acknowledges financial support through NSF AGS-1602009 and the Investment in Science Fund given primarily by WHOI Trustee and Corporation Members. RP is funded by the Weston Howland Jr. postdoctoral scholarship at WHOI. We thank John Pinkham for (F.V. Nothin’ Serious III) for his expertise in collecting shells, Robert Russell (Maine Department of Marine Resources) for sampling permits and assistance, and Heidi Bray (Maine Department of Marine Resources) for temperature data from Boothbay Harbor. Use of the following data sets is gratefully acknowledged: Global Precipitation Climatology Center data set by the German Weather Service (DWD) through; Hadley Centre HadISST by the UK Met Office; and the Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project supported by the U.S. DOE, Office of Science Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment program, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and NOAA Climate Program Office. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their detailed comments and constructive criticism that greatly improved this manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan D. WanamakerJr.
    • 1
  • Shelly M. Griffin
    • 1
  • Caroline C. Ummenhofer
    • 2
  • Nina M. Whitney
    • 1
  • Bryan Black
    • 3
  • Rhys Parfitt
    • 2
  • Erin E. Lower-Spies
    • 1
  • Douglas Introne
    • 4
  • Karl J. Kreutz
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Geological and Atmospheric SciencesIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Physical OceanographyWoods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA
  3. 3.Laboratory of Tree-Ring ResearchUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  4. 4.School of Earth and Climate Sciences and Climate Change InstituteUniversity of MaineOronoUSA

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