Ocean Scientists Worry About Possible Return of "the Blob"

John Crawford
09/09/2019

Scientists are keeping a close eye on a wedge-shaped mass of warm water that's blanketed a large swath of the Pacific Ocean, starting near Vancouver Island.
   
They say this mass of warm water is similar to a phenomenon that occurred five years ago known as the blob, which disrupted marine ecosystems.

Blob-2019-NOAA-1-(1).jpg
[MAP:    NOAA] 
   
Andrew Trites is the director of the marine mammal research unit at the University of British Columbia.
   
He says even a few degrees of temperature change is a big deal for marine wildlife.

"Maybe in a couple of months, we'll discover that it's disappeared and it was a false alarm, but if it is the same, then it's very concerning for marine mammals that depend on fish, for seabirds that depend on fish, and probably also just for ocean productivity because the colder water tends to be more productive than warmer water," he explained.
   
A research scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- Nate Mantua -- says this year's wedge is less severe than the blob of 2014.
   
But he notes that it's only been around for about three months.

"It developed very recently, so it started about mid June in this area that goes from Vancouver Island south to about Baja California then offshore towards Hawaii, so it's a very large area, with unusually warm water and it's about as warm as anything on record, so it's comparable to the warm blob period of 2014-15-16," he said.
   
He says so far the warm expanse has been held offshore by cold water welling from the ocean depths.
   
Mantua says the fate of the heat wave is up to the winds -- they could eradicate it, or they could make it much worse.

[The Canadian Press]

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