Oceanographic highlights for the North Atlantic 2022

Salinity, temperature, and atmospheric observations by ICES Working Group on Oceanic Hydrography.
Published: 31 July 2023

​​​​​​ICES Working Group on Oceanic Hydrography (WGOH)​ is the custodian of some of the longest-running time series of ocean observations, many of which now extend more than forty years. 

Each year, the group meets to review the most up-to-date information on marine temperature and salinity and oceanographic conditions in the North Atlantic, publishing the findings in ICES Report on Ocean Climate. After meeting in March, their joint analysis has strengthened individual organizational efforts to provide the following highlights for the North Atlantic in 2022. ​


In 2022, the record low salinities recently observed in the North Atlantic subpolar gyre region, are now clearly evident in the intergyre and subtropics. The freshening signal has now propagated to intermediate waters in the Bay of Biscay, Gulf of Cadiz, and west Iberia which in 2021, were only evident in upper waters (<500 m). While the freshening event continues to spread southward, some North Atlantic regions are showing a rebound from this widespread event (e.g. freshening signal is less evident in areas such as the Barents Sea).


Record warm upper ocean temperatures (<200 m) were observed in many regions of the North Atlantic, especially in coastal areas and the Shelf Seas (e.g. North Sea, Canadian and northeast US shelves) where upwelling is not prevalent. This is in keeping with the recent ongoing trend of warmer atmospheric conditions off the northeastern North American coast and northern Europe. In 2022, sea surface temperatures were significantly (3 to 5 standard deviations) above normal in some regions. Ocean warming continues to propagate deeper (intermediate and deep waters of the Nordic Seas, Iceland-Scotland Ridge overflows, Labrador Sea, Irminger Sea, the western subtropical and eastern North Atlantic coasts). However, the recent decadal warming trend in intermediate waters (700–2000 m) over a wide area of the Greenland Sea is showing a slowdown since 2021.

North Atlantic atmosphere in winter 2021/2022 

Winter 2021/2022 had a moderately positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index, making it the seventh positive winter of the last decade. Wind speeds over the North Atlantic between northeast Canada and the west coasts of the UK and Norway were stronger-than-average, peaking at the tip of Greenland where the gradient in sea level pressure was greatest. Weaker than-average westerly winds were found over eastern USA and Canada and over the Azores, where a high-pressure anomaly stretched across the North Atlantic and into western Europe. 

Surface air temperatures across the east coast of the USA and northern Europe were warmer than usual and colder-than-average temperatures were seen in the Labrador Sea and across southern Europe, as expected with a positive NAO index. Near-average surface air temperatures were seen across most of the mid-North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea but it was significantly warmer than usual in high-latitude areas of Baffin Bay, Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea, and Greenland Sea.

All data and time series associated with ICES Report on Ocean Climate can be found in the oceanographic database in ​​ICES Data Centre.​

ICES Working Group on Oceanic Hydrography (WGOH) closely monitors the ocean conditions in ICES area by updating and reviewing results from standard hydrographic sections and stations. WGOH's work addresses Ecosystem science, Ecosystem science, Observation and exploration, and Conservation and management science, three of ICES scientific priorities.

Discover all seven interrelated scientific priorities and how our network will address them in our Science Plan: “Marine ecosystem and sustainability science for the 2020s and beyond"

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Oceanographic highlights for the North Atlantic 2022

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