Sep 5 2019

Marine Heat Wave Similar To ‘The Blob’ Returns To West Coast

The warm water stretches from Alaska to California, covering an area that’s almost as large as “the blob” and still growing.

“It’s on a trajectory to be as strong as the prior event,” said Andrew Leising, a research scientist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California. “Already, on its own, it is one of the most significant events that we’ve seen.”

This map of sea surface temperatures illustrates the new marine heatwave off the West Coast as compared with “the blob” of 2014-15. Darker red denotes temperatures farther above average. The highest temperatures shown are more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit above average. NOAA Coral Reef Watch

The marine heat wave in 2014-15 sent water temperatures up to nearly 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal. It caused massive harmful algae blooms that shut down crab and clam fisheries up and down the West Coast. It affected food availability in the ocean, which resulted in many young sea lions left stranded on beaches by parents searching for food. Warmer waters led humpback and other whales to feed closer to shore, which in turn caused record numbers of them to become entangled in lines from crab traps and other fishing gear. They also brought a baffling proliferation of an unfamiliar, pickle-shaped creature known as a pyrosome.

“We learned with ‘the Blob’ and similar events worldwide that what used to be unexpected is becoming more common,” said Cisco Werner, NOAA Fisheries director of scientific programs and chief science adviser. “We will continue to inform the public about how the heatwave is evolving, and what we might anticipate based on experience.”

Current forecasts show the heat wave moderating but continuing for months.

Nick Bond, a research meteorologist with the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean in Seattle, said weather patterns in the region around Alaska and the Bering sea have been unusually warm in recent years. Scientists with NOAA are reviewing impacts documented during the “the blob” to compare them against the effects of the emerging heatwave.

“There are definitely concerning implications for the ecosystem,” said Bond, who is credited with naming “the Blob.” “It’s all a matter of how long it lasts and how deep it goes.”

This story will be updated.


Original post: https://www.opb.org/news/article/marine-heat-wave-blob-returns-west-coast/

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