Recent American weather has been very diverse. While the East Coast had more snow, the West Coast has been drier than usual.
A “blob” of warm water near the West Coast, which is approximately 2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, is behind disturbing fish and seal behavior, according to two studies by the Geophysical Research Letters.
The warm patch is not caused by climate change, even if it shares many of the similar effects for West Coast weather.
Nick Bond, a climate scientist at the UW-based Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean explained: “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.”
Bond, who works for the research group formed by scientists from both the UW and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, offered the name “the blob” in June 2014 in his monthly statement as Washington’s state climatologist. He mentioned the huge patch of water, which is 300 feet deep and 1,000 miles wide, had been behind Washington’s mild 2014 winter and could be the cause of a warmer summer.
Today, the blob is still near the shores, but is squeezed against the coast and reaching about 1,000 miles offshore, covering a space which spans from Mexico to Alaska. Water temperatures in the blob are 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal. Bond mentions all the analysis suggest that it will not go away until the end of this year.
The new research explores the blob’s beginnings. It discovered that it relates to a high-pressure ridge. The ridge was the main cause for the calmer ocean condition which were experienced during the past two winters. Very little heat from the water was lost to cold air. The increasing temperatures we experience now are caused by less winter cooling.
The researchers also observed at how the blob is affecting the marine life from the West Coast. They announced fish sightings in bizarre and unusual places. This findings suggest that West Coast marine ecosystems are suffering, while the food chain has been severely disrupted by warm Pacific Ocean water, which has less nutrients.
The blob’s is also affecting land temperatures. Air passes over warmer water and brings more heat to the coast. It also brings less snow, which the study shows helped cause current drought in California, Washington and Oregon.
Image Source: NBC News