Offshore wind development in the Mid-Atlantic has accelerated rapidly over the past couple of years, with states stretching from Virginia to Massachusetts making firm commitments to solicit offshore wind and advance their renewable energy goals. These goals include, so far, a commitment to over 28 GW of installed wind capacity in the Mid-Atlantic Bight in the next decade. Due to these expectations, it is vital that the relationships between offshore wind and the MidAtlantic physical and ecological environment be thoroughly explored and understood, particularly how offshore wind development may influence the seasonal cycle of stratification in the region that leads to the formation, maintenance and eventual breakdown of a Cold Pool of bottom water unique to the region.
The Mid-Atlantic Bight is bounded by Cape Cod, Massachusetts to the north and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to the south and is intersected by the Hudson Shelf Valley extending from the mouth of the Hudson River out to the continental shelf-break. The physical oceanography of this region is influenced by local topography, freshwater input from the large watersheds that empty through multiple rivers and estuaries, shelf-break canyons, large scale atmospheric patterns over the North Atlantic, and tropical or winter coastal storm events. Ocean characteristics in this region undergo remarkable variability across time scales from days and weeks to seasons, years, and decades. As the US embarks on the development of offshore wind energy installations with expected lifetimes of 2 to 3 decades on ~1.7 million acres of leased federal ocean bottom, these time scales of variability and the processes underlying them must be carefully considered.