Areas of above-average sea temperatures dominating the Pacific Ocean have been dubbed “The Blob,” “Son of Blob,” and “Godzilla.” (Modified image: ClimateReanalyzer.org)
By now, everyone has probably heard about El Niño, and the effects of this weather pattern across the Western Hemisphere. Some are predicting this El Nino to be the biggest ever, naming it the “Godzilla El Niño.” But step aside Godzilla: another monster weather anomaly has been wreaking havoc with the west coast. Beware of “The Blob.”
First identified (and nicknamed) in 2014 by Nick Bond, a climatologist at the University of Washington, The Blob is a huge mass of warmed ocean waters (about five degrees Fahrenheit above normal) lurking in the Pacific Ocean just off the west coast of North America, now stretching its reach from Mexico up to Alaska. The 60-foot deep blob of water is causing havoc with weather, wildlife, and continues to require health advisories for visitors and locals alike.
And as the El Nino weather system has been storming across the Pacific this season, it has stirred up ocean waters enough to cool down the original Blob off of Alaska, but at the same time helped give birth to what has been nicknamed the “Son of Blob” off the coast of Southern California. The still-warmer Alaskan waters, and Son of Blob sector are expected to continue to magnify the El Nino effect for months to come, according to Weather Underground’s “Blob Watch” blog.
This satellite image from October 2015 shows weather patterns impacting climate change. (Photo: NOAA)
For travelers, these unexplained blobs can effect what you see (for whale watching and other nature viewing), your fishing (people fishing have caught odd species in odd spots), and what you can eat (a resulting toxic algae bloom has prompted warnings in certain areas against eating shellfish and other species.)
And whatever the cause, from global warming, to the “Pacific Decadal Oscillation,” or a ”Ridiculously Resilient Ridge,” the fact is the waters are warmer. The first effect has been warming temperatures in the Pacific Northwest. NOAA satellite imagery shows the dramatic combination of the two systems. One researcher in Alberta has gone so far as to say “this may be the year that winter is cancelled.” So if you’re planning to go skiing or ice fishing up in western Canada this winter, bring some hiking and biking gear as well.
Visitors to the northern California shores in 2014 were shocked to see masses of beached, starving, and dying sea lions. Sausalito’s Marine Mammal Center reported having to rescue over 1,100 on the sea lions that season. Though to be a result of lack of fish in the waters (their normal meals migrated to cooler waters). Then in 2015, dozens of disoriented seal and sea lions began wandering inland, including poor Rubbish the sea lion pup, who had to be rescued from the streets of San Francisco and brought to the center for treatment. Thought to be a result of a neurotoxin from red algae growing in the warm waters, this algal bloom is now killing off seals. The Marine Mammal Center is treating some seals with a healthy fish diet and liquids, but the troubles continue. Travelers to Northern California beaches should be aware of potentially sick or strangely acting sea lions and contact the MMC if they find one.