Pacific Ocean Heat ‘Blob’ Returns

Reminiscent of events five years ago, the Pacific Ocean is experiencing a heat wave. According to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the temperature of the ocean is 5 degrees above average.

In 2013, Scientists noted a patch of abnormally warm water had formed in the Gulf of Alaska – it was about a third the size of the United States at the time. Climate scientists started calling it The Blob, echoing a 1958 horror movie about a menacingly growing alien life form consuming everything in its path.

By 2015, The Blob had doubled in size, and stretched from Alaska to Baja. There were massive algae blooms that shut down many fisheries up and down the West Coast. Food became scarcer in the ocean – which ended in young sea lions stranded on beaches while their parents searched for food. Warmer waters led whales to feed closer to shore, and record numbers of them were entangled in lines from crab traps and other fishing gear. Salmon populations were adversely effected.

Most scientists say future events concerning The Blob are difficult to anticipate. Much was learned from the last time around, but it’s still a relatively new phenomena.

Nick Bond is a research meteorologist with the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean in Seattle – he is credited with naming with The Blob. Bond told OPB that scientists with NOAA are reviewing impacts documented during the last phenomena of this kind and comparing them against the effects the heat wave that is currently emerging.

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

By Andy Thompson