Situated between the continental shelf of the eastern United States and the north wall of the Gulf Stream flowing eastward from Cape Hatteras, the Slope Sea is a transition region between the productively rich coastal waters and the productively static open ocean.
In the current SeaWiFS special issue of Deep Sea Research II, University of Rhode Island oceanographers Stephanie E. Schollaert, Thomas Rossby, and James Yoder describe their four-year, NASA-funded study of the Slope Sea along the Gulf Stream in order to understand the processes that control the yearly variability of surface concentrations of chlorophyll, the pigment found in plants and algae.
Annually, cold, fresh Labrador waters "spill" into the Slope Sea, influencing the path of the Gulf Stream, pushing it south in the spring. Since the advent of ocean color remote sensing in 1978 and particularly since the 1997 launch of the dedicated ocean color sensor SeaWiFS, the surface chlorophyll concentration of waters off the U.S. east coast have been found to be highest in the north (e.g., Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank, Labrador shelf) and during the winter when the Gulf Stream is farthest south and more Labrador water is present.
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