HALIFAX -- A federal scientist says deep water off the southern coast of Nova Scotia was abnormally warm earlier this week.

Scientists found water temperatures reaching 14 C during a regular survey Sunday and Monday of the northeast channel in the Gulf of Maine between Georges Bank and the Scotian Shelf.

Dave Hebert, a research scientist at the federal Fisheries Department's Halifax office, says that's six degrees warmer than the average water temperature.

"It's definitely above normal, very above normal," Hebert said in an interview Friday.

Deep water in that region was an average of 8 C for the last 30 years, said Hebert, who assessed the survey data for the Fisheries Department.

It is too early to say whether climate change is the cause, he said.

The climate scientist says air temperatures have been recorded for hundreds of years, but there are only 50 years of recorded oceanographic temperatures.

"We really need a long time series to really pull out significant trends," said Hebert.

The warm temperature might have been caused by the Gulf Stream pushing warmer water from the south right up to the Scotian Shelf, Hebert says.

He says the Gulf Stream, which normally ebbs and flows from south to north, is reaching the Scotian Shelf more frequently and randomly every year.

Scientists writing for the journal Nature say the Gulf Stream, the warm water current where hurricanes can power up, historically veers away from the United States around the Carolinas or Virginia.

The Gulf Stream now hugs closer to the coast around New York, and there's a significantly warmer bulge around Maine related to the circulation slowdown.

The northern U.S. Atlantic coastal waters have warmed faster than most parts of the ocean in recent decades, according to one study published recently in Nature.

Hebert says it is also too early to determine what affect the higher water temperature will have on the province and surrounding areas.

However, he says there's a possibility that it will affect temperature-reliant fish including lobsters as well as hurricane frequency and strength.

With files from The Associated Press