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Open Access Offshore Wind Energy and the Mid-Atlantic Cold Pool: A Review of Potential Interactions


The U.S. East Coast has 1.7 million acres of federal bottom under lease for the development of wind energy installations, with plans for more than 1,500 foundations to be placed. The scale of these wind farms has the potential to alter the unique and delicate oceanographic conditions along the expansive Atlantic continental shelf, a region characterized by a strong seasonal thermocline that overlies cold bottom water, known as the “Cold Pool.” Strong seasonal stratification traps cold (typically less than 10°C) water above the ocean bottom sustaining a boreal fauna that represents vast fisheries, including the most lucrative shellfish fisheries in the United States. This paper reviews the existing literature and research pertaining to the ways in which offshore wind farms may alter processes that establish, maintain, and degrade stratification associated with the Cold Pool through vertical mixing in this seasonally dynamic system. Changes in stratification could have important consequences in Cold Pool setup and degradation, processes fundamental to high fishery productivity of the region. The potential for these multiple wind energy arrays to alter oceanographic processes and the biological systems that rely on them is possible; however, a great deal of uncertainty remains about the nature and scale of these interactions. Research should be prioritized that identifies stratification thresholds of influence, below which turbines and wind farm arrays may alter oceanographic processes. These should be examined within context of spatial and seasonal dynamics of the Cold Pool and offshore wind lease areas to identify potential areas of further study.

Keywords: Mid-Atlantic Cold Pool; ocean interactions; offshore wind

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2021

More about this publication?
  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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