Baseless Alarmism: Global Warming’s Impact on Gulf of Maine Driving Away Lobsters and Fish

Guest Post By Bob Tisdale | The supposed impact of global warming on the Gulf of Maine over the past decade has hit a multitude of media outlets. Example: take’s article Global Warming Is Changing the Gulf of Maine, Imperiling Its Lobster, Fish Catch. According to the article, Gulf of Maine temperatures were marching along with the global average from 1982 to 2004, but then over the past decade, starting in 2004, the Gulf of Maine began warming at a rate that was 10 times faster than the previous rate.

So let’s take a look at the sea surface temperature data for the Gulf of Maine, and see what story they have to tell.

2004 to 2013 TREND MAP

For those readers who are wondering where in the world the Gulf of Maine is, I’ve highlighted its location on a trend map of ocean surface temperatures for the period of 2004 to 2013. See Figure 1. For the past 10 years, yes, the surface of the Gulf of Maine warmed at a high rate…along with the Kuroshio-Oyashio extension east of Japan and the coastal waters of western Australia. Other than those regions and a few others, global sea surface temperatures have cooled (not warmed) over the past decade. Note the negative number also highlighted on the trend map.

Figure 1 - Trend MapFigure 1

We’re using the coordinates of 41N-45N, 71W-66W for the Gulf of Maine sea surface temperature data in this post. That’s less than one 5-degree latitude by 5-degree longitude grid. So consider the size of the region.


The NOAA annual ERSST.v3b-based sea surface temperatures for the Gulf of Maine (1854-2013) are shown in Figure 2. Sea surfaces there were relatively cool from the 1870s until the 1920s, when there was an upward shift in the late 1920s. Sea surfaces were quite warm in the Gulf of Maine from the early-1940s to the mid-1950s. There was a dip and rebound in the 1960s. There appears to have been another upward shift in the late 1990s, followed a few decades later by a spike in surface temperatures in 2012.

Figure 2Figure 2

I’ve highlighted the period of 2004 to 2013 in Figure 3 to give you an idea of the period they’re concerned about.

Figure 3Figure 3


The long-term data show the sea surface temperatures for the Gulf of Maine shifted upwards in the late 1920s. So let’s look at the sea surface temperatures there since 1930, Figure 4. While there was a recent uptick in the sea surface temperatures for the Gulf of Maine, the linear trend of the data show the warming rate there was basically flat, at only 0.004 deg C/decade, since 1930. Human-induced global warming appears to have eluded the surface temperatures of the Gulf of Maine.

Figure 4Figure 4

In fact, without that spike in 2012, the sea surface temperatures of the Gulf of Maine would have cooled since 1930. See Figure 5, which presents the data and trend from 1930 to 2011.

Figure 5Figure 5


The articles focused on the last decade, so maybe there something unusual about the recent decadal temperature or decadal warming rate for the Gulf of Maine. Nope.

Figure 6 shows the 10-year-average sea surface temperatures (trailing) for the Gulf of Maine. About “trailing”: the last data point at 2013 indicates the average surface temperature for the period of 2004-2013, and the data point before it presents the average for the period of 2003-2012, etc., working back in time to the first data point at 1863 for the period of 1854-1863. The 10-year-average sea surface temperatures for the periods ending in the early 1950s were noticeably higher than today.

Figure 6Figure 6

And Figure 7 presents the 10-year trends in the surface temperatures of the Gulf of Maine. There were 10-year periods ending in the early 1930s and early 1970s when the surface of the Gulf of Maine warmed faster than they have recently.

Figure 7Figure 7


Somehow, I don’t think any of this would come as a surprise to the fishermen and lobstermen of the Gulf of Maine. They understand the effects on their businesses of natural variations in ocean temperatures.

It’s really tough to claim that human-induced global warming has caused a warming of the Gulf of Maine, when, if you lop off the last two years of data, the surfaces there have cooled for more than 80 years. Refer back to Figure 5.

Just another example of unfounded alarmism.


The data presented are available through the KNMI Climate Explorer.


Thanks to blogger Alec, aka Daffy Duck for advising me of this nonsense.


Addendum by Anthony:

It tales a special kind of stupid to believe that ‘global warming’ is killing off the Maine lobster industry, especially when we see recent stories like this:



The reason? Warmer weather.

Story here:



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Mike Bromley the Kurd
September 3, 2014 4:37 pm

Well, they can’t make the Maldives a victim any more, so how about some Scallop Draggers from Brier Island?

September 3, 2014 4:49 pm

Thanks Bob, last year, some eco-nut claimed that the warm waters around Newfoundland were a result of GW. Made the news all over Canada. Maine/Nfld are in that same location, and ya, it warmed up, but nothing unusual as I suspected.

September 3, 2014 4:53 pm

I live here, the econuts are crazy here.

john piccirilli
September 3, 2014 4:59 pm

Try swimming in the ocean in maine, the water is so cold it hurts

September 3, 2014 5:01 pm

I saw that story this afternoon on a FaceBook post, but didn’t have time to reply. You’ve done a much better job than I could anyway, thanks!
I was just up that way – , all seems to be in order. Good lobsters, mussels, and haddock.

September 3, 2014 5:04 pm

Just a quick google that took all of 30 seconds,
‘Intensive fishing has affected the ecosystem, according to Teegarden. Fishermen drag nets across the bottom of the sea floor to catch ground fish, such as cod and haddock. Those nets mow across fish habitats, kicking up the bottom and disrupting the habitat the fish rely on for food. While drag nets affect habitats, overfishing decimates the fish stocks themselves. Traditional regulations have not successfully protected fish stocks, and many species are at dangerously low levels, affecting both the ecosystem and the fishing industry that relies on the Gulf of Maine’

Reply to  Richard
September 3, 2014 6:18 pm

It’s not even overfishing. I’m from Maine. Have been travelling to the coast for almost 60yrs. Know what’s there now, that wasn’t there 50yrs ago, at least not in the numbers they are now?…
Seals. This was covered by a WUWT post some time ago.
Seals are everywhere now. They’re completely commonplace. They’re cute, cuddly, and absolutely ferocious eaters of fish. Fish of all sizes, but of course, the small and slow are an easy meal.
And by the by, as we say in Maine…
A lobster doesn’t give a rat’s ass that in 2013 the lowest sea temp was 34deg and the highest was 63deg, but in 2014, the lowest was 35deg and the highest was 64deg. (figures are examples).
They really don’t care. Know why? They MOVE. Colder to warmer, warmer to colder…they MOVE.
But I’ll also say this. Lobstermen, at least the successful ones, are some of the sharpest, shrewdest ilk you’ll ever meet. And if they think there’s even 1 extra $ to be had from the gummint, they’ll grab it in a second, and rightfully so given what’s happened to their livelihood over the past 3-4 decades. And it wasn’t global warming that did it to them.

September 3, 2014 5:08 pm

If I’m not mistaken, the lobster harvest has grown so much that the price has collapsed. The cod catch has fallen, but haddock are recovering. Where’s the trend?

Les Johnson
Reply to  Steve@granitecreekblog
September 3, 2014 5:27 pm

You would be correct. The lobster catch has increased from about 20 million pounds in the 1950-1990 era, to over a 120 million pounds in 2013.

Les Johnson
Reply to  Steve@granitecreekblog
September 3, 2014 5:28 pm

The Maine lobster harvest has been increasing over the record, 1880-2011. Its increased by 50% since 2004 alone. Oh, and its just about to get a sustainable certificate.

Reply to  Steve@granitecreekblog
September 4, 2014 10:56 am

On the 8 Aug 2013 it was reported:

Lobster prices fall as warmer oceans cause supply glut
Lobster prices plummeted last year amid a glut of supply that many have attributed to global warming.
The Maine lobster industry, which, together with Canada, produces a third of the world’s supply, saw a five-fold increase in the volume of lobster harvests last year to 126m pounds (57.1m kg), from 28m pounds in 1990, according to figures from the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

Ya see? You can blame global warming for small or glut catches. LOL.

Les Johnson
September 3, 2014 5:25 pm

Bob: In supoort of your temp data, is the fish harvest. All species of sea food show an increase in landings from the 1950s, albeit with a peak in the 1990s, followed by a slight decline, and a levelling of the catch since.
And US fish stocks have rebounded.

Reply to  Les Johnson
September 3, 2014 8:40 pm

What is concerning about the data is the implications for where the AMO cycle stands. The SST profile resembles the most active East Coast land falling hurricane periods in our short record book. If the years 1938, 1944, 1954 mean anything to you, you will know what I am talking about.

Reply to  Les Johnson
September 3, 2014 10:37 pm

There is so much overfishing going on the last few decades, both worldwide and specifically in the north Atlantic, that that’s the first place I would guess to fix blame if seafood harvests are starting to decline. I only hope some scheme can be agreed to privatize fishing rights in places like the Grand Banks (thus curing this tragedy of the commons) before the competition dooms those fish species.

September 3, 2014 5:42 pm

Does GISS mean Goddard Institute for Space Studies or is it now Goddard Institute for Seafood Studies?

September 3, 2014 5:52 pm

Long ago, lobsters were so plentiful that Native Americans used them to fertilize their fields and to bait their hooks for fishing. In colonial times, lobsters were considered “poverty food.” They were harvested from tidal pools and served to children, to prisoners, and to indentured servants, who exchanged their passage to America for seven years of service to their sponsors. In Massachusetts, some of the servants finally rebelled. They had it put into their contracts that they would not be forced to eat lobster more than three times a week.

Reply to  ES
September 3, 2014 6:21 pm

I have a PDF copy of a 1898 manual for army cooks. In it are recipes for using canned lobster in field cooking – horse drawn kitchen wagon and wood fire cooking. Canned lobster was a very inexpensive protein for the mess to purchase locally or from the commissariat, so soldiers back then were served it often – too often for some.
In twenty four years of Army service both active and reserve (1974 – 1998), I was never even once served lobster. Crawdads, yes. Lobster, no.
Any of ya’ll seen it in the DFACs in the 2000’s?

Les Johnson
September 3, 2014 6:03 pm

Bob Tisdale: What para,meters did you put into making the map? When I do it, I get a 0.02 deg WARMING over the globe, for 2004-2013.

Les Johnson
Reply to  Bob Tisdale
September 4, 2014 8:12 am

Thanks Bob. I was not sure what I was doing wrong. Plus, as Reagan said: Doveryai, no proveryai.

September 3, 2014 6:12 pm

I believe we had a record harvest here in Maine last year.. prices were plummeting; cheapest in years.. prices still aren’t that high.. As a Mainah (maine for mainer), I believe this to be more a result of some fools computer model rather than truth on the ground. Lobsta (maine for lobster) fisherman would love a smaller catch as an excuse to increase prices.. if they were smat (maine for smart).. then they would take advantage of this chum to ratchet up prices.. problem is, they are too honest… ya cant get thar from he-ar….

September 3, 2014 6:15 pm

The Gulf of Maine has been blamed for everything from over fishing to global warming…
…the problem has always been dams and sedimentation
They didn’t see that coming and didn’t regulate the fishing industry fast enough

September 3, 2014 6:25 pm

Is it just me, or does some kind of survival instinct kick in when Bob Tisdale says:
“So let’s take a look ….”
I bet I aint the only one 🙂

D.J. Hawkins
Reply to  u.k.(us)
September 3, 2014 6:53 pm

Bob’s just really thorough, you know. Really, really, REALLY thorough. For a guy who claims he’s had to cut back his output, he sprays more words than a pool contractor does gunnite.

Reply to  D.J. Hawkins
September 3, 2014 7:45 pm

Yep, haven’t seen a change of the input.
Which is good, eh ?

Gary Pearse
September 3, 2014 6:31 pm

Bob, I worked on a mining exploration project on the south coast of Newfoundland and stayed at a place called Little St. Lawrence. There is a small well equipped hospital there donated by the US Navy as a token of appreciation for the rescue in 1942 of US seamen from two ships that foundered and were dashed against the cliffs in a winter night. The water is bitterly cold and is the same water basically that the Titanic went down in.
By contrast the current traveling up the west coast of Nfld is rather warm (by Canadian standards). This, I was told, was a branch of the Gulf stream, whereas the south coast waters are from a current coming down the east side of the country from the north (iceberg alley). I waded into the sea from a beach in summer near Little St. Lawrence and my feet were numb in minutes. At the same time Newfoundlanders were in bathing suits with long nets scooping up literally hundreds of kilos of caplin which they put in zinc tubs with salt in preparation for drying. They looked like they were on a Caribbean beach! A tough bunch!
Presumably the warm water off Maine is an eddy of the Gulf Stream.

Ian L. McQueen
September 3, 2014 6:35 pm

There was one newscast Monday (CBC Radio, of course) in which it was claimed that clams were dying as a result of increasing water temperatures in the Bay of Fundy, which runs off the Gulf of Maine. I have been trying to contact the writer of the paper but my phone messages have not yet been replied to. I’ll keep trying.
Ian M

Half Tide Rock
September 3, 2014 6:47 pm

Three interesting points on the temperature in the Gulf of Maine. Lobsters shed in the summer when the waters are WARMING this year they were very late letting go of their carapaces. Someone at Gulf of Maine research forgot to tell them that the water was warmer. Home Depot has all of it’s air conditioners on sale. Mainers decided that they didn’t need the cooling this summer. Must be cooler. Finally the wood pile n the basement from last winter was down to the last sticks when the spring weather broke.. A consumption phenomena never seen since the house was built in 1981. Initial fall wood volume and species is constant. There is nothing like the sense of a rapidly cooling house to motivate stoking the fire. Would these be proxy’s? Any how Just thinkin’ that there are other realistic measurements independent of the AGW narrative…. it hurts! (thinking I mean) While I prefer the fantasy I ordered a bit more wood this year. Because decisions based upon fantasy don’t end well.

Reply to  Half Tide Rock
September 3, 2014 7:29 pm

I moved 🙂
Easier than chopping/stacking/buying oil, and shoveling.

Reply to  jimmaine
September 4, 2014 4:08 am

I did too. Now deep in ‘enemy territory’ trying to RESTORE Boston all by myself… The fishery situation is a crock and everyone knows it. A classic example is that they recently shut down scallop fishing in the Cobscook Bay area because of ‘diminished’ stocks. Problem is that there are so many scallops they are literally rotting in place. Stocks are just fine.
The only species being threatened are Fishermen (and women).

September 3, 2014 8:25 pm

Of course, let’s not mention that the Gulf of Maine was indeed warm during the hot 1930s climate and also warm during the cold 1970s climate. What can happen is that large vortices can peel off the Gulf Stream and get lodged in the shallows off the coast of Maine, and the summer sun can heat it, thus maintaining its warmth. Back in the 1970s we saw huge sunfish, Mola mola, up there just a few miles off the coast; they are warm water fish that came up on the Gulf Stream.
Overall, there is a 60-year water temperature cycle that the lobstermen have known of for many, many decades. Lobsters respond to this cycle by being most plentiful in the midrange between the cold and hot extremes and less plentiful at the extremes. That way they have beneficial conditions more often than not.

September 3, 2014 11:20 pm

Lobsters live for 80 years.

Reply to  Sparks
September 4, 2014 4:10 am

150 years in many cases.
Striped bass are their main predator as well as monk fish.

Reply to  john
September 4, 2014 4:29 am

Really 150 years? that must be the high end, would this be like saying all humans live to 120?
I know that the average age of a human is 35. Maybe lobsters are on to a good thing.

Reply to  Sparks
September 4, 2014 5:02 am

Not if I can help it 🙂

Reply to  Sparks
September 4, 2014 7:57 am

10 minutes when I am around them 🙂

September 4, 2014 3:16 am

Dang, them climate cherries taste good.

September 4, 2014 6:49 am

We’re catching winter flounder in July off New Jersey. The water isn’t warm.

Ralph Kramden
September 4, 2014 7:22 am

Just more junk science from the Alarmists, they blame everything on climate change. I don’t have any data but it seems to me I see less and less about climate change in the main stream media. They do cover severe weather on about every news cast but they don’t claim it’s climate change. Is less coverage actually happening or is it just my imagination?

September 4, 2014 8:12 am
September 4, 2014 8:15 am

But the lobster glut in the Gulf of Maine is no reason for complacency, marine biologists have warned. …
Lobsters here have shown negative reaction to warming water temperatures and ocean acidification, as is evident in their early shedding and migrating north to colder water, said [University of Maine zoologist Rick] Wahle. Disease and parasites could become a problem if climate change is not slowed by reductions in carbon emissions. In southern waters, lobsters have developed a disease that causes their shells to slowly disintegrate.

Jim South London
September 4, 2014 8:41 am

Climate Change killing Lobsters oh .Bad news for Derek and Clive.
[ ]
Warning Very very rude.

Jim South London
Reply to  Jim South London
September 4, 2014 8:45 am

Climate Change killing Lobsters ,but good news for Jayne Mansfield

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Jim South London
September 6, 2014 12:26 pm

I am sorry, but I do not get that one. Poor Ms. Manfeild has been dead for almost 50 years now. For members of the younger generation, her daughter, Mariska Hargitay, stars in Law & Order SVU.

Robert W Turner
September 4, 2014 11:19 am

Someone with the time needs to start a list of global warming claims that are completely the opposite of reality. It would be a long list. To claim something that is easily seen to be false with a 1 minute Google search is absurd.

September 4, 2014 11:49 am

Maybe Maine can go after some of the same international funds that went to the Maldives compensation. Start looking for beachfront sites for new resorts and airports.

September 4, 2014 7:20 pm

My neighbors are lobstermen. Last year the water was warmer and they started having good catches in mid May. This year it was early July before the catch started to come in. NOAA acknowledges that global temperatures have been unchanged for the last decade. The EPA are the alarmists.

Jim s London
Reply to  Bob Carlson
September 6, 2014 7:46 am

Just another scare tactic ploy to whack the price of lobsters up

Walter Sobchak
September 6, 2014 11:23 am

You know, I don’t read AGW scare story articles anymore. They so predictable and so lame. Bob Tisdale’s take down hardly seems like a fair fight. So, I sort of scanned it and moved on. So many morons, so little time. But, I read James Taranto’s Best of the Web column in the WSJ every day because he is quite witty. Yesterday (5 Sept) he focused on the article that is the subject of this post. Lo and behold he found the real howler in the article, because he read the whole thing and the give away is almost at the end.
The lede of the article says:

Imagine Cape Cod without cod. Maine without lobster.

Well, just imagine that because, it is not what has happened, because if you keep reading until you get to the 24th graf of a 28 graf article, you will read the following:

Ironically, the warmer water has created ideal conditions for lobsters and contributed to an overabundance in recent years, causing prices to tumble to their lowest point in nearly two decades in Maine.

So, the lobsters have not disappeared, indeed they seem to be super abundant. So, Anthony was right. Well, never mind. You just wasted your time reading irrelevant junk. Of course the author knows that he has just shot himself in the foot, so he immediately hauls out one of the usual suspects to to say something completely inane:

But continued warming could force to them to move north or die off, Steneck said.

Well, it could, I suppose. But, OTOH, anything not forbidden by the laws of physics could happen. Why, AP could begin honest reporting of climate science. Wouldn’t that be something?

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