The Gulf of Maine Coastal Current (GMCC), which extends from southern Nova Scotia to Cape Cod Massachusetts, was investigated from 1998 to 2001 by means of extensive hydrographic surveys, current meter moorings, tracked drifters, and satellite-derived thermal imagery. The study focused on two principal branches of the GMCC, the Eastern Maine Coastal Current (EMCC) that extends along the eastern coast of Maine to Penobscot Bay, and the Western Maine Coastal Current (WMCC) that extends westward from Penobscot Bay to Massachusetts Bay. Results confirm that GMCC is primarily a pressure gradient-driven system with both principal branches increasing their transport in the spring and summer due to fresh-water inflows, and flowing southwestward against the mean wind forcing during this period. In the spring and summer the subtidal surface currents in the EMCC range from 0.15 to 0.30 ms−1 while subtidal WMCC currents range from 0.05 to 0.15 ms−1. The reduction of southwestward transport near Penobscot Bay is accomplished via an offshore veering of a variable portion of the EMCC, some of which recirculates cyclonically within the eastern Gulf of Maine. The degree of summer offshore veering, versus leakage into the WMCC, varied strongly over the three study years, from nearly complete disruption in 1998 to nearly continuous through-flow in 2000. Observations show strong seasonal and interannual variability in both the strength of the GMCC and the degree of connectivity of its principal branches.
The kinematic and hydrographic structure of the Gulf of Maine Coastal Current