Archive for November, 2016

Nov 9 2016

Sea Snails on Acid

Twice a day the rocky Pacific coast traps seawater in pools as the tide rolls in and out. Compared to the ocean, the puddles are so small and innocuous that it seems nothing momentous could possibly be happening there, but there is. It turns out tiny black turban snails may be getting a buzz from the changing levels of acidity caused by ocean acidification. The scientists at Bodega Marine Lab looked closely at sea stars and snails to find out.

The underside of the purple sea star is covered in tiny delicate suction cups that make one wonder how it moves fast enough to be a voracious hunter, but it is. It’s the bully on the playground, a merciless predator. It can pry open mussel shells, turn its stomach inside out and wrap it around large prey, and digest its meal before even swallowing. It’s no wonder that when black turban snails sense the purple star’s arrival, they all flee to safety, crawling quickly up the side of a tide pool until the enemy leaves the water. Quickly for snails, that is.

Black turban snail, upper right, with its nemesis the purple sea star in the foreground. Credit: Gabriel Ng


Snails have always been good at running away from their primary predator – the purple sea star – until now. Brittany Jellison, a graduate student at University of California Davis, has found in a recent study that the snail’s dramatic response might be slowing down because of ocean acidification. Jellison modified tide pools to mimic ocean acidification conditions. Then she observed the snail’s response by measuring the path they took to safety. What she found when watching the snail was a trippy set of behaviors.

“Elevated carbon dioxide is a foreign substance in seawater, and snails are taking that foreign substance into their body, so yes, they in essence are on drugs,” said Brian Gaylord, a professor at UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab, where Jellison discovered that under ocean acidification conditions, snails didn’t immediately flee the pool to safety.

Ocean acidification occurs when the ocean absorbs excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  While most scientists studying the phenomenon are trying to understand how it effects a single species in a lab, Jellison’s work explores how ocean acidification effects multiple species interactions.

Brittany Jellison collecting black turban snails for lab studies. Credit: Gabriel Ng


“I think what’s really important here is that she is moving beyond thinking about an individual species, and instead thinking about how the direct effects on individuals scale up when they are in nature and interacting with other species. That is the important part of it,” said Kristy Kroeker, Assistant Professor at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of California Santa Cruz.

Professor Philip Munday of James Cook University agrees. He studies how ocean acidification effects reef fish and their ability to adapt to a changing environment.

“Ecosystems are a whole combination of interactive species,” said Munday. “If we want to understand how ocean acidification is going to impact marine ecosystems we need to understand how it will impact with the really critical ecological interactions, such as predatory-prey interactions. That’s one of the really exciting things about Jellison’s work.”

Tide pools on the Pacific coast have natural fluctuations in acidity, and the black turban snail and other animals that live there have adapted to that. Jellison wondered if the snails would be tolerant to ocean acidification conditions as well, or if they would reach their tipping point, and no longer able to tolerate the changes.

To find out, Jellison made model tide pools in aquariums. So that the snails would feel most at home, she simulated the conditions of natural tide pools, with one exception. Jellison changed the levels of acidification in some of the pools to mimic the levels that are expected for rock pools under ocean acidification by the year 2100. Having some tide pools with normal conditions and some with future acidic conditions allowed her to compare the behavior of sober snails with snails on acid.

With the arena built, let the show begin. Clutching her camera, Jellison carefully lowered black turban snails into the tank. One by one the snails reacted to a chemical cue produced by the predator sea star. Jellison took photos every two minutes for a half hour, then analyzed them for the distance the snails traveled, where they moved, and most importantly, if they left the water and escaped to safety. In total, Jellison did two 5-day trials, created 32 aquariums, tested 32 snails, and took photos every two minutes for 28 minutes per snail.

Under normal conditions, the snails will run away and exit the water, a flight response that keeps them safe. Jellison found that in water with higher acidity the snails started to run away, but instead of moving to dry ground, they seemed to get confused, haphazardly meandering around the pool.

Ocean acidification’s ability to change the interactions between predators and prey can have far reaching consequences. Jellison and her team aren’t yet sure exactly why the snails act confused. They think it’s related to changes in the brain as the animal tries to maintain balanced brain chemistry, which is something they would like to understand further.

“I really love research and I especially love working with marine animals,” said Jellison, “but when I think about what my work is saying about the future it can be a little bit hard to take in. Most of the things we are finding is that the world is going to look very different form what we see today.”

In the meantime, Jellison continues this research out in the field, in a creative study that has her waking up at all hours to hike to the tide pools and observe snails – all to understand the cascading effects of ocean acidification on the ecosystem. “I have a lot of hope that we will move forward as a society and try to come up with solutions and actually make changes. It is having hope that is important,” said Jellison.

Ocean acidification may cross national boundaries, and reach all corners of the earth, but a glimpse into a puddle of seawater reveals an elaborate community, a tiny snail, and a big message.

Read the original post:

Nov 7 2016

West Coast CSF Launches “Boat-to-School” Program to Teach California Students About Seafood

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2016

Seafood News


SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Civil Eats] By  Anna Guth – November 7, 2016

New programs in three states support local seafood markets while educating children.

A few years ago, Alan Lovewell had a vision. He wanted to replace the bland, deep-fried anonymous “fish” served in school cafeterias with flavorful, locally caught seafood—as a way to bring nutrition to the kids in his area, and help them understand where their food comes from.

Lovewell had created a community supported fishery (CSF) subscription service called Real Good Fish, which provides local seafood direct to consumers, in much the same way that community supported-agriculture (CSA) works for produce. The program enjoyed quick success after it launched out of Monterey Bay in 2012 (it now supplies more than 1,000 members with weekly shares). But Lovewell wasn’t satisfied. In his mind, he had a long way to go to build a regional food system.

The young entrepreneur shifted his focus toward supplying seafood to public K-12 schools, particularly in districts where the majority of students receive free or subsidized meals. In 2014, Real Good Fish partnered with the nonprofit Center for Ecoliteracy to pilot the “Bay2Tray” program in California’s Monterey Unified School District. After a significant number of students reportedly chose the fish tacos over pizza, the team at Real Good Fish knew they had some traction. Bay2Tray quickly spread to three more school districts in the state.

“Looking at the maps [in California], the irony is that most of the areas that produce the nation’s food are in fact food deserts,” says Lovewell, who was recently named a White House “Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood.” “I realized that the missing piece was schools and children: they have the lowest income and lowest access, and obviously, they are the ones with the vested interest in the future of our oceans.”

The Bay2Tray program is not alone. Across the country in seaside states including Oregon and Massachusetts, schools are piloting a range of models of “boat-to-school” programs. Most of these programs feature an educational component as well as an edible one; organizers provide ethically caught seafood, and an understanding of where and how that seafood was harvested.

In 2015, Real Good Fish received a $6,000 grant from the outdoor clothing company Patagonia to bring the fishermen into the classroom. Fisherman Ernie Koepf, who has a lifetime of experience catching herring in the San Francisco Bay, contributes his spare time. After answering the typical, urgent questions about whether he’s seen a whale—or a shark!—Koepf focuses on making the basic connection between local fish and the food on the kids’ plates.

“When I come into the classroom, I speak to them about seafood [from] the perspective of the food chain—how fish end up on their plates, and how we catch them,” says Koepf. “And they find this very fascinating. It’s a very rewarding experience.”

Building Local Seafood Markets
Consumer awareness and interest in local, sustainably caught seafood has grown in the years since the first CSF, Port Clyde Fresh Catch, took off in Maine in 2008. The fishermen in that community mobilized in response to the decimated stocks of signature New England species like cod and flounder and the resulting tightening of federal fishing restrictions; to save their livelihoods, they abandoned their wholesale markets and sold other, less popular species directly to their community.

CSFs are the first “building blocks for a community to take more control over the [seafood] supply chain,” says Brett Tolley, who comes from a four-generation commercial fishing family and is now a community organizer for the advocacy organization, the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA).
Falling into step, schools and other institutions have a huge role yet to play, notes Tolley. He says he’s starting to see a shift “toward institutions paying fair price and committing to buying a large volume collectively from many smaller, independent businesses.” It’s a change that “stands to make an enormous, game-changing difference to family fishermen and fishing communities, who are right now struggling to survive.”

For fishermen often unable to find a domestic market for their product, the benefits of the local support from boat-to-school programs cannot be overstated. Koepf says he’s looked for outlets for his herring for years—without success—and so he had been selling it exclusively to Japan until Alan Lovewell approached him about Real Good Fish.

Koepf’s story echoes big picture statistics. The U.S. imports 91 percent of its seafood and selling a third of its domestic catch abroad. This global conundrum arises not from a lack of domestic fish—the U.S. successfully adopted stronger fishing regulations in recent years, with healthier fisheries as a result—but rather from our domestic market’s taste for a select few species. Remarkably, shrimp, canned tuna and salmon accounted for 55 percent of all seafood consumed in the U.S.

Companies like Real Good Fish have their work cut out for them, therefore, to introduce new species to students and their members. “We really want children to engage and make that connection between their lunch and the natural world,” says Maria Finn, Real Good Fish’s marketing director. “And we really want our members to be aware that there are seasons in seafood,” she continues. “There are things that have an impact. For instance, if it’s stormy out, they’re probably going to get oysters, clams, or abalone because fishermen can’t go out in the ocean.”

Boat-to-School Programs in Oregon and Massachusetts 

Organizations in other states have followed in Real Good Fish’s footsteps. In Oregon, the Seaside School District is piloting a yearlong boat-to-school program run by the Oregon Albacore Commission (OAC) and funded by a $15,000 farm-to-school education program grant from the Oregon Department of Education.

The curriculum kicked off this October, themed “salmon month,” and includes fieldtrips to a local hatchery, presentations from fishermen, taste tests, and even ingredients for a take-home dinner for families. Students will also explore crab, tuna, pink shrimp, and groundfish such as cod, flounder, halibut, and sole, based on the season

“This is an outlet for us as an industry to tell our story, to talk about the changes that we’ve made, the things that we’re doing right, and to allow children to try something that’s very close to home,” says the OAC’s Vice Chair Christa Swensson, who helped spearhead the grant and who also does marketing for Bornstein Seafood, another supplier and program funder.

In another state where fish is close to home, Deborah Jeffers, the director of Salem, Massachusetts’ Food and Nutrition Services, is sourcing local seafood by using federal funding. Once a week, Jeffers serves Salem high school students with local fish from the nearby Cape Ann Fresh Catch Fishery, which was one of the first CSFs started by the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association back in 2008.

Jeffers plans to extend the program to the elementary school and provide local fish to all 3,800 students across the 12 schools in her district.

The Benefits and Challenges

For schools, supporting fishermen to catch otherwise unmarketable species can have unexpected cost-cutting benefits. For example, Lovewell convinced black cod fishermen to sell Real Good Fish grenadier, a fish they mostly throw back because, as Finn says, it “has zero markets—it’s really ugly.” For $5 per pound however, the mild, flaky white fish is perfect for fish tacos in schools.

“This is a lesson farm-to-school advocates learned in the apple industry: People started selling cider apples, the really small ones, to schools because they were perfect for little kids,” says Simca Horwitz, the Eastern Massachusetts director for the Massachusetts Farm to School project, reflecting on similar uses of underutilized, abundant fish in east coast schools. “In a lot of ways, schools turning to local seafood today is where we were with land-based agriculture about 10 years ago.”

While all three boat-to-school programs have received strong enthusiasm from students, cost and distribution issues often stress the programs. On the supply side, Real Good Fish now uses a third-party distributor so schools don’t have to coordinate with multiple vendors. But this makes the program almost cost-prohibitive for the company. To help fund the effort, Real Good Fish’s CSF members now have the option to add $1.25 per week to support a school lunch.

Food Services Director Deborah Jeffers in Salem also confirms her costs per portion are higher when she serves fish, but she uses the commodities provided by four U.S. Department of Agriculture lunch programs to supplement the effort.

In a similar strategy, the Oakland Unified School District’s farm-to-school supervisor Alexandra Emmott supplements some of the meal’s protein requirement—a standard of the National School Lunch Program—with a side of rice and beans—in order to serve small portions of fish.

Both Jeffers and Emmott have had to train cooks and cope with the under-resourced kitchens in their districts as well. The entire district serves over 30,000 lunches per day, and many of the kitchens aren’t equipped to prepare food from scratch, let alone de-bone hundreds of pounds of fish.

The question of location is another big one. “I’m lucky, right down the road, we have Gloucester fishermen!” explains Jeffers. “But anyone who is in the center of the state, maybe they have it easier for farms, but where are they going to get their fish? It’s going to have to be delivered to them and maybe frozen.”

Brett Tolley of NAMA has a more optimistic viewpoint. It makes sense boat-to-school programs are piloted near the coast because it’s such a new model, he says. But there’s also a tremendous opportunity to match institutions’ need for healthy proteins with domestically caught fish.

NAMA collaborates with organizations like the Real Food Challenge, Sea to Table, and Health Care Without Harm, which are pioneering the way for institutions to buy large amounts of seafood while still holding suppliers accountable for ecologically sustainable practices.

“Institutions that are more inland and landlocked have been, in many ways, the most vulnerable to being exploited by the industrial seafood system,” Tolley adds. “They only get the fish that has been frozen three times over and traveled thousands and thousands of miles. It’s especially important that we can focus on those institutions.”

Copyright © 2016 | Subscribe to


Nov 1 2016

Omega 3 Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts And Sources

October 31st, 2016 — According to a lot of research, omega 3 benefits each of the body’s systems in its own way. The greatest benefits can be found in the heart and the brain.

In places where other fats clog the arteries and contribute to heart disease, the omega 3 fatty acids helps to fight off the heart disease in many ways.

Here I have contributed a list of the things that omega 3 can do for your heart:

  • Anti-Coagulant Activity – helps prevent the formation of clots in the blood
  • Antioxidant Activity – they help to prevent oxidation of the fats that are found in the bloodstream. When the fats become oxidized, they can stick to the artery walls and harden atherosclerosis
  • Relax Smooth Muscles – the help reduce the blood pressure, which can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack
  • Improves The Levels Of Cholesterol – Cholesterol isn’t all bad. Most individuals who have problems with cholesterol have high levels of LDL and low levels of HDL. The particles of LDL are most
  • likely to stick to the walls of the arteries and create clots. HDL is what helps remove the particles of LDL from the blood. Omega 3 supplements have been known to increase the amount of HDL.
  • Lowers The Amount of Blood Triglycerides – triglycerides are the fats found in the blood. The more fats that are found in your blood, the more likely you are to develop blood clots, have a stroke, or develop heart disease. The prescription medication LOVAX used for high levels of triglycerides is really nothing but omega 3 fish oil
  • Anti-Inflammatory Activity – when the oxidized fats get stuck to the artery walls, they create swelling or inflammation, which makes the arteries even narrower


Read the full report at Cooking Detective 

Read the original post:

Nov 1 2016

Biased Tide Gauges Mean We’ve Been Systematically Underestimating Sea Level Rise

An early 20th-century tide gauge in Venice, Italy. Photo by Stock Italia/Alamy Stock Photo

Most historical tide gauges were installed in the northern hemisphere, a legacy that has been skewing scientists’ modern interpretations of sea level rise. 


In harbors and ports around the world, tide gauges bob up and down with the sea, recording its height over time. In some places, these instruments—through various iterations—have been recording continuously since 1700. Originally installed to help fishing and merchant vessels plan when to enter and leave harbors, the data produced by these old-school gauges has been co-opted by scientists, and now forms the basis of climatologists’ understanding of long-term sea level rise. But as a new study shows, because the majority of these tide gauges were located in North Atlantic port cities, scientists have been systematically underestimating the rate of global sea level rise.

“The gauges are concentrated in the northern hemisphere, in Europe and North America, where traditionally we’ve had a lot of shipping and commerce,” says Phil Thompson, an oceanographer at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. “That’s contributing to why we don’t get really good spatial coverage over the globe.”

Sea level rise is not occurring evenly across the planet. Tides, currents, and weather systems constantly alter sea levels, while tectonic forces move the land. Changes in Earth’s gravity and rotation also affect sea level, and melting ice caps cause a host of complex effects.

The northern hemispheric concentration of historical tide gauges caused researchers to misrepresent the effects of melting glaciers on global sea level rise. Photo by EyeEm/Alamy Stock Photo

The result of this northern hemispheric concentration in tide gauges, then, is that long-term records have provided data that has led scientists to underestimate the rate of 20th-century sea level rise by as much as 0.2 millimeters per year, says Thompson. This is a fairly large amount, as the average rate of sea level rise over the past century is thought to be around 1.7 millimeters per year.

People have measured the rise and fall of the tides for millennia. In the 3rd-century BCE, Greek explorer Pytheas of Massalia reportedly took note of the tides of Great Britain, and he was the first to notice a correlation between tides and the Moon. But the oldest tide gauge records still in existence date from the 18th century, and are centered in the port cities of Europe and North America. The oldest tide gauges were simple structures, consisting of a long metal tube with an opening under the water which minimized the effects of waves or passing ships. At regular intervals, an observer would record the water level relative to a fixed point on the land.

In the United States, the government started surveying coastlines in 1807, at the behest of Thomas Jefferson, who saw the measurements as valuable for exploration, commerce, and safety. According to the US Congress, accurate charts of the coastline and tides would help naval forces and merchants alike.

In 1851, the US Coast and National Geodetic Survey installed the first self-recording gauge in San Francisco. It contained a pen resting on a scroll that rotated at a constant rate, and when the pen moved up and down with the tides, it traced a graph of water levels.

Over time more tide gauges were installed, and these long-running records became vital to science in a way Jefferson would never have anticipated, says John Fasullo, a sea level rise expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

“You have this problem a lot in climate science,” Fasullo says. “You have some record that exists that was installed with a different intent, and then it’s the only data you have for understanding climate, so you use it any way you can.

“The kind of work [Thompson] is doing is very important for understanding the biases in this data set, which was never designed originally to monitor global mean sea level.”

Specifically, the main source of bias that Thompson found stems from how ice sheets affect regional sea level.

Ice is heavy, so enormous sheets create a subtle gravitational pull, and affect the Earth’s rotation. The result is that ice sheets attract water toward themselves. As these ice sheets melt into the sea, this gravitational pull relaxes. Water slowly moves away from them, and is redistributed toward areas with stronger gravitational pulls, explains Fasullo. Initially, cities near the site of melting ice might see localized sea level rise, but over time they will experience less.

This redistribution of water means tide gauge records of average sea levels in northern hemisphere cities are artificially low, because the northern hemisphere’s ice sheets are thought to be the largest sources of melt. Since tide gauges were predominantly installed in northern hemisphere cities, this is the source of the systemic bias.

The result adds to a growing body of research that suggests the sea level can change dramatically over shorter time periods than expected, says geoscientist Ben Horton of Rutgers University, who measures past sea levels using core samples. He says the result suggests climate models might not be calibrated correctly, which raises questions about their predictions for future sea level rise.

“This is not a feel-good moment. Showing that it is rising faster is not a good answer,” he says. “That indicates that our oceans are even more sensitive to climate change than we previously thought.”

The good news is, now that scientists are aware of this source of bias, they can take it into account in future climate models, Thompson says. The bad news is sea level rise may be happening more quickly than scientists thought.

Read the original article: Rebecca Boyle, “Biased Tide Gauges Mean We’ve Been Systematically Underestimating Sea Level Rise,” Hakai Magazine, November 1, 2016, accessed November 1, 2016,

Nov 1 2016

‘The Blob’ Is Back: What Warm Ocean Mass Means for Weather, Wildlife

This illustration of temperature in the northeast Pacific shows the status of the “Blob,” a warm-water phenomenon, as of September 2016.

The blob is back.

Since 2014, a mass of unusually warm water has hovered and swelled in the Pacific Ocean off the West Coast of North America, playing havoc with marine wildlife, water quality and the regional weather.

Earlier this year, weather and oceanography experts thought it was waning. But no: The Blob came back, and it is again in position off the coast, threatening to smother normal coastal weather and ecosystem behavior.

The Blob isn’t exactly to blame for California’s drought, though it certainly aggravated the problem. But it is to blame for seriously disrupting the ocean food chain and for creating conditions that fed unprecedented algal blooms in the coastal Pacific.

With the Blob back in play again, what does it mean for the winter ahead? To find out, Water Deeply spoke with Nicholas Bond, a research meteorologist at the University of Washington in Seattle and Washington’s state climatologist. In June 2014, Bond named this persistent weather phenomenon, and later wrote the first scientific paper characterizing it.

Water Deeply: What exactly is the Blob?

Washington’s state climatologist Nicholas Bond named the warm ocean mass now commonly known as “the Blob.”
Washington’s state climatologist Nicholas Bond named the warm ocean mass now commonly known as “the Blob.” (Nicholas Bond)


Nicholas Bond: It’s a large mass of water in the northeast Pacific Ocean that’s considerably warmer than usual. It doesn’t have any real sharply defined boundaries, but it’s an area that, at times, has stretched from Baja California up to the Bering Sea. At other times, it’s kinda shrunk back down. It’s been at least 1,000 miles (1,600km) across and, recently, quite deep.

Typically, it’s been something like2.7–3.6F (1.5–2C) warmer than normal. But there have been places where it’s been as much as 9F (5C) warmer. It’s waxed and waned, but it’s been that way since early 2014. The warmer-than-normal water extends down to something like 300m (1,000ft) below the surface. So that’s a huge volume of considerably warmer-than-normal water.

Water Deeply: Is it still out there?

Bond: Yeah. There was sort of a reinvigoration this past summer. The temperatures were moderating early in 2016, and then, at least in a large area south of Alaska and off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, it really warmed up again this past summer.

Water Deeply: What causes it?

Bond: A lot of it, almost all of it, is due to just the unusual weather patterns that have been occurring over the northeast Pacific during the past few years. They haven’t been the same patterns, but what really got it started was when a ridge of higher-than-normal sea-level pressure set up during the winter of 2013–14 over the northeast Pacific.

That was a very persistent and strong ridge of higher-than-normal pressure that kind of blocked the usual parade of storms across the Pacific. That meant less heat was drawn out of the ocean into the atmosphere than usual. It meant there was less cold water (from the deeper ocean) mixing near the surface part of the ocean. And also the unusual winds meant the upper-level currents in the ocean were a little bit different from usual.

Water Deeply: Is it unprecedented?

Bond: Yeah, certainly. In terms of the magnitude of anomalies in a lot of locations, we haven’t seen anything quite like this. I did a fairly careful study using the data that’s available, going back decades. There have been other periods with considerably warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures in the region. But they were never of the kind of geographic extent and magnitude we’ve seen with this recent event.

Emaciated juvenile sea lions undergoing rehabilitation at the Marine Mammal Center in California. Their plight is thought to have been triggered by the unusually warm water conditions that persist in the coastal Pacific Ocean, upsetting the usual food web upon which sea lions and other wildlife depend.
Emaciated juvenile sea lions undergoing rehabilitation at the Marine Mammal Center in California. Their plight is thought to have been triggered by the unusually warm water conditions that persist in the coastal Pacific Ocean, upsetting the usual food web upon which sea lions and other wildlife depend. (NOAA Fisheries)

Water Deeply: What caused that persistent high pressure?

Bond: It became known as the “ridiculously resilient ridge.” There’s been a number of independent studies that have basically shown that much warmer than normal waters in the far western tropical Pacific, in the vicinity of New Guinea – and thunderstorms that those warm waters helped spawn – had this kind of ripple effect on the atmospheric-circulation weather patterns over much of the globe.

It set up this series of very large-scale high- and low-pressure centers, with the ridge over the coast of western North America, and then a trough of lower pressure over the northeastern part of North America.

Water Deeply: How did the Blob affect the drought in California?

Bond: That same ridge of high pressure basically blocked the storms. There was just a real lack of those regular storms. The warm water didn’t cause the unusual weather patterns. But those unusual weather patterns that brought the warm water also were a large cause of the drought in California.

It turned out that was the same case in the Pacific Northwest. Not quite the same extent, but we were looking at very low snowpack in mid-February 2014. Then there was enough of a shift that we actually had a pretty wet period there at the end of winter and got enough rain and snow to kind of tide us through the summer of 2014. But there weren’t enough (storms), and those didn’t extend far enough south for California to get relief.

But it gets kind of complicated. Once that warm water formed out there in a big way, it does tend to warm the air that’s passing over it. Once that water was warmed, it did help warm the air coming off the ocean. This was especially the case in the winter of 2014–15. It led to warmer air temperatures and higher snow levels. The freezing level was 1,000–2,000ft (300–600m) higher than usual in the mountains. So that certainly ended up being a real problem. We count on that snowpack coming out of winter to get us through the summer. But it fell as rain rather than snow during that 2014–15 winter.

Water Deeply: Is there a climate change connection here?

Bond: This is sometimes called a marine heat wave, and it’s a short-term kind of event. There is some evidence that long-term trends are favoring the patterns we’ve had over the past few years. But that’s a very small effect.

So it’s not due to global warming. But it does provide some hint, at least, of what it’s going to be like in future decades, in particular, with some of the impacts we’ve seen in the marine ecosystem. What we’ve had the past few years is something that is liable to be more the rule rather than the exception toward the middle of the century. So maybe this is kind of a little preview or something. So we’re trying to learn from it.

Water Deeply: How has the Blob affected ocean life?

Bond: The impacts were quite a few and widespread. At the bottom of the food chain, we saw a higher preponderance at the plankton level of subtropical species versus ones that are more adapted to cooler water.

That had repercussions all the way up the food chain – everything from the kind of suitable prey for salmon that was present and whether they were getting the food they need, to some real problems with fur seals and sea lions in California in particular. In the Gulf of Alaska we had what National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has called a marine mammalmortality event last year. Seabirds are another one: There were some species with some very large mortalities, with lots more dead seabirdswashing up on the beaches.

One of the more alarming things is the harmful algal blooms. That was sort of way out there in terms of how far along the coast it stretched, how long it lasted, how high the toxin levels got. That was something that was really scary.

Water Deeply: How long will the Blob be with us?

Bond: That’s kind of the $64,000 question. We thought this whole event was winding down earlier this year, and then we’ve seen it rear its ugly head again in some locations.

Water Deeply: How will this affect our weather this coming winter?

Bond: The more prominent temperature anomalies are a little north of California. It’s all going to depend on the weather patterns. There are kind of borderline La Niña conditions now, which doesn’t tend to imply too much one way or another for Northern California. In the past, it probably has meant somewhat less precipitation than normal for Southern California. But we see a lot of exceptions there.

It’s kind of an admission of defeat, but it’s basically a crapshoot in terms of how much rain you get.

I think in terms of temperature, it’s not liable to be quite as warm as the past two winters, so that’s good, at least for the winter-sports folks. What falls in the mountains should be snow at the higher elevations. I think Northern California is liable to do OK. Southern California? Wow, that’s a tough one.

Read the original post: