Western View: Phenomenon in the Pacific

Taylor HillmanFeatures, Weather, Western View

'Warm Blob
A new phenomenon in the Pacific may be controlling our weather.

Western View: Phenomenon in the Pacific

The ocean is talking, and we need to listen. Something strange is happening and we are feeling the effects here in California. There’s a heat bubble forming out in the Pacific, a very large one, something that one scientist labeled “the blob.” This mass of warm water appears to be having a large impact on the environment and could well be the cause of the strange weather that North America has been experiencing the last three or four years.

The blob is huge – covering much of the Pacific, stretching all the way to Japan — and in it, water temperatures are as much as five degrees above normal. It isn’t a typical El Nino pattern, as the warmth is bigger and spreads much farther north. Higher water temperatures have been mapped from Siberia across the Bering Sea, then through the Gulf of Alaska, and south to the coast of Mexico. Scientists theorize the warm patch has caused the drought on the west coast and the severe winter weather in the rest of the country.

The warm water is also having a major effect upon marine life off the coast of California. A decline in sardine populations has been so dramatic that the fisheries were closed, and there will be no commercial sardine fishing for the next 14 months. Steelhead and salmon are threatened with major declines as well. Sea lions are starving along the coast, and experts say as much as 70 percent of the pups born this year will not survive due to a lack of food sources.

Unfortunately there’s no historical data around that we can use to understand this phenomenon, which makes it very hard to know what to expect. The experts go both ways on the possible effects of the blob. One group thinks the drought in California and severe weather everywhere else will continue. Another group thinks we may have a major El Nino effect, with drought-busting rains this winter. Hmm… I guess that means we should pray for rain and plan for drought.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.