Rising ocean temperatures are rising in the northeast Pacific, similar to conditions presented in 2015. It is safe to say the marine heatwave known as the “Blob” has returned. This time the Blob’s 2019 return is the second largest to occur in the Pacific in at least 40 years. It encompasses 4 million square miles from Alaska to Canada and as far away as Hawaii, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“It’s on a trajectory to be as strong as the prior event,” said Andrew Leising, a research scientist at NOAA. “Already, on its own, it is one of the most significant events that we’ve seen.”
The Blob got its ominous name from Washington state climatologist and University of Washington scientist Nick Bond when the 2015 heatwave happened.
The more recent Blob popped up in an area of high pressure stationed over the region. Such an incident forces warm surfacewaters to swirl around allowing cool, wholesome water from below to rise and takeover.
“We learned with ‘the Blob’ and similar events worldwide that what used to be unexpected is becoming more common,” said Cisco Werner, NOAA fisheries director of Scientific Programs and chief science advisor.
Without this churning process, surface heat can build up and if there are no nutrients from the cooler water below, the heatwave agitates the food chain.
Overall, this creates less food for marine life and compels animals to go beyond their immediate home in search of food or simply die off. Underwater creatures aren’t the only things to suffer as humans who bank on the ocean’s physical condition are also affected.
For instance, commercial fishing businesses in some places have shut down like Fisheries and Oceans, Canada, which has limited fishing rights for First Nations.
Scientists also report should the Blob stick around it could be a bigger threat than it was in 2015.
“There are definitely concerning implications for the ecosystem,” added Bond. “It’s all a matter of how long it lasts and how deep it goes.”
Image via NOAA