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Warning: The Pacific Ocean is warming

Hundreds of west coast residents swarmed the coastlines this summer seeking refuge from the scorching sun. Much to their surprise, warm temperatures seemed to replace the cool waters. Although the mysterious change in temperatures were a pleasant shock to many beach goers, scientists are concerned as reports on pacific ocean life death rates seemed to increase dramatically.

Referred to by scientists as “the blob,” the suspicious patch of warm Pacific water is not new to 2018, however, it was first discovered in late 2013 by state climatologist for Washington and researcher for Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean of University of Washington, Nicholas Bond. The blob is a circular area that is a result of water formed where sea level pressure is abnormally high.

This cartoon shows the blob overshadowing El Nino as they both leave marine life disturbed | Photo Courtesy of Phys.org

The blob has been confirmed by Anchorage-based climatologist Brian Brettschneider that it is a result of unusual atmospheric conditions, likely to be human-induced.

Marine life seems to be dramatically affected by the anomaly having unusual migration of tropical fish appear in the Gulf of Alaska and the increased deaths of many sea life creatures including whales and fish, not excluding sea birds on off the West Coast. Among the large mammals, malnutrition seemed to be a common symptom of their deaths.

The uncommon traits taking over sea life in the Pacific is harmful to not only the ecological integrity of the environment, but damage affects the rural communities in Alaska that depend on a substantial economy dependent on the state’s natural habitat.

Bond reported that the blob has cooled down since 2015, but it could still have lasting effects, evident by the uncommon events spurring along the western coastline.

In terms of the effects the blob has had on the southern California, the drought remains to be one of the most prominent issues caused by the blob. Because of the persistent upper-level ridge of high pressure centered over the region, which yields more sunshine than light showers or thunderstorm activities. The extra warm weather is also due to the upper-level ridge.

Smaller waves and light winds prevent upwelling, a process allowing cold water from the depth of the ocean to rise toward the surface, which results in warm water.

San Diego beaches were also affected this summer. Photo Courtesy of Aaron Chang

An influx of Pseudo-nitzschia blooms— a single-celled toxic alga that produces a neurotoxin called domoic acid— also became a result of the blob. Relation to the high level of blooms also occurred during El Niño in 2015. Pseudo-nitzschia is harmful to sea creatures as well as humans because the algae settles in shellfish.  

Dozens of sea lions seemed to be heavily affected by the blooms as they turned up on s

hore sick and twitchy. It also sickened seabirds, porpoises, and seals. The toxic concentrations of the algae were 30 times greater than normal and tests found the domoic acid in fish too dangerous for people to eat. The toxin can result in seizures, memory loss, and even death when ingested by humans.

Scientists are hopeful that given time, plants and animals may adapt or move. Whether the blob is primarily the cause of all these events is uncertain, but it is a reflection of the effects man made environmental issues have on Earth.  

 

About Jana Ariss

Jana Ariss
Jana is Senior at MC and is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of The MC Sun.

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