The Timing of Global Change
AbstractBecause of its responsiveness to changes in the marine environment, it has been suggested by Rose in 2005 that the capelin, a small pelagic fish that is key to the ecology and fisheries of the North Atlantic, could be seen as a "canary in the coalmine" to detect signals of changes in the Arctic and sub-Arctic Ocean. We describe the historical data that make possible a quantitative assessment of the geographical shift capelin migration-paths and spawning grounds undergo, with increasing temperature, and the time it takes to make these shifts long-lasting. Then we introduce recent data that make these quantitative measurements more accurate and predictive. Direct measurements made in the fall expeditions of Iceland's Marine and Freshwater Research Institute along the East Coast of Greenland, and the Copernicus database of the European Union, are used to examine the evolution of the returning Atlantic water (from Svalbard) that is forming a warmer and saltier boundary current under the colder and fresher East Greenland polar current. The returning Atlantic water has a temperature range (1 to 4 degrees Centigrade) suitable for feeding migrations of the capelin. This current is reaching further north along the coast of North East Greenland and we use simulated data from Copernicus to monitor this evolution. We calibrate the Copernicus data with the direct measurements made by the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, in Iceland. A trend emerges, both in the direct measurements and in Copernicus data, showing that the returning Atlantic water boundary current may reach Greenland's major Northeastern glacier streams, draining the bulk of the Greenland Glacier in the relatively near future We use the capelin data to predict when this may happen.