The Blob

BlobAccording to two recent papers in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, the blob is causing mayhem on both our shores and in between.

No, not THAT Blob. That Blob is a cult classic about a soulless gooey alien space monster that wreaks havoc on a small town in Pennsylvania.

This blob is a massive patch of warm water off the US West Coast that’s contributing to warmer than normal temperatures and drought conditions in states like California and Arizona, and the lower than normal temperatures and huge snow storms in the north East.

This blob was discovered in June 2014, when Nick Bond, a climate scientist at the University of Washington and lead author of one of the new studies, began looking for potential causes of Washington state’s mild winter. Bond notes

In the fall of 2013 and early 2014 we started to notice a big, almost circular mass of water that just didn’t cool off as much as it usually did, so by spring of 2014 it was warmer than we had ever seen it for that time of year.

At that point, the warm patch, located in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 miles off the West Coast and stretching all the way from Mexico to Alaska. covered about 1,000 miles in each direction and was 300 feet deep.

"The blob" in April 2014, as shown in the July 2014 newsletter where it got its evocative name. The scale is in degrees Celsius. (Photo courtesy: NOAA)

“The blob” in April 2014, as shown in the July 2014 newsletter where it got its evocative name. The scale is in degrees Celsius. (Photo courtesy: NOAA)

Since then, the warm blob has persisted, and in their study published Monday (April 6), Bond and his colleagues argue this warmer than normal ocean water has contributed to the warmer than normal and drier than normal weather in the west and colder and snowier weather in the east. In another anomaly, the blob is causing marine life to appear in unusual places and warm water with fewer nutrients is disrupting ecosystems and food supply in the Pacific which might explain the number of starving sea lion pups washing up on Californian beaches.

This blob may be an even greater threat than the one Steve McQueen tried to warn his Pennsylvania neighbors about, and it certainly has had a greater reach. But it will be sometime before we know the extent of its powers.  As one of Bond’s colleague notes, whether these changers are

just natural variability happening or if there’s something changing about how the Pacific Ocean decadal variability behaves,I don’t think we know the answer. Maybe it will go away quickly and we won’t talk about it anymore, but if it persists for a third year, then we’ll know something really unusual is going on.

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One Response to The Blob

  1. Jen says:

    That is fascinating and alarming. I wish it were more fascinating than alarming.

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