Mid-Atlantic
Jesse Allen / NASA Earth Observatory

USA - Offshore Wind Turbines Could Affect Mid-Atlantic 'Cold Pool,' Study Says

Building arrays of offshore wind turbines off the mid-Atlantic states could have effects on the annual cycle of ocean water temperatures that are critical to the region’s fish and shellfish habitat, a new study suggests.

The paper from the Science Center for Marine Fisheries surveys years of research around northern European offshore wind installations, particularly in the North Sea. Travis Miles, Sarah Murphy, Josh Kohut, Sarah Bosetti, and Daphne Munroe, all of Rutgers University, reviewed existing literature on how three decades of wind farm construction has affected ocean environments in Europe.

The group looked at earlier findings about how the turbine structures may affect the local environment, including questions about how turbine foundations may interact with tidal currents, temperatures and sediments in the water column, and how the turbines’ extraction of energy from wind may affect the surface of the ocean around them.

Of particular interest is the so-called “cold pool,” the seasonal stratification of cooler water close to the bottom, peaking in summer and turning over in fall and spring. It’s important to the survival of key, commercially important species including scallops and surf clams, and is a driver of primary production and nutrients for the ocean food web.

Their findings “can’t tell you if there is significant impact, limited impact, or no impact” from installing turbine structures, cautioned Travis Miles, a physical oceanographer. “We were very good about saying what we know and don’t know.”

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