A large heatwave is accumulating in the Pacific Ocean, and scientists are concerned that a huge patch of hot water could be moving towards the west coast of North America. Journalists refer to this phenomenon as ‘the Blob,’ but it has also been called the “north-east Pacific marine heatwave of 2019.”
A similar situation occurred about 5 years ago, when a massive warm patch moved towards the west coast, stretching from Mexico to Alaska. Scientists believe that this “blob” could be responsible for a heatwave that lasted for years on the west coast, damaging the ecosystem and killing large amounts of wildlife.
Some estimates suggest that more than 100 million pacific cod lost their lives along the southern coast of Alaska that year, while roughly a half-million seabirds were lost.
Scientists are keeping a close eye on a thin blanket of warm water off the West Coast for about three months, saying it resembles a marine heat wave nicknamed “the blob” that disrupted marine life between 2014 and 2016. https://t.co/p1prrVudSq
— The Star Vancouver (@starvancouver) September 9, 2019
Humpback whale populations dropped by 30% in just one year as well. Likewise, the blob is also said to be responsible for toxic algae blooms which caused a great deal of casualties across a variety of plant and animal species.
According to Science Alert, researchers from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are now closely tracking this phenomenon, after the massive financial losses that were seen across numerous industries the last time that something like this happened.
The images below, provided by the NOAA, show that the formation of the blob in 2019 is very similar to the conditions seen in 2014.
Marine ecologist Chris Harvey from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center said that these images show that the blob will likely take a similar path as it did last time.
The current marine heatwave is the second-largest of its kind since scientists started tracking such matters in 1981.
Andrew Leising, who developed a system for tracking and measuring marine heatwaves for NOAA, agreed that this will be just as strong as the previous marine heatwave, and is on course to be one of the most significant seen by scientists.
Researchers estimate that the patch of ocean in question is about five degrees Fahrenheit above normal, which is roughly a degree or two less than temperatures seen during the last Blob.
According to the Guardian, Oceanographers began realizing that something was wrong back in June of this year, when they noticed what was described as a triangle-shaped mass of ocean, which stretched all the way from Alaska to southern California and then all the way down to Hawaii. Scientists are currently unclear on what the exact cause of the ocean heatwave is, but the prevailing theory is that weak winds have allowed the temperatures to rise. For some reason, there have been unusually weak winds in that part of the ocean this year, which has suspiciously coincided with the rise in temperatures.
Researchers have also said that there is really no way of knowing just how much of an impact that this has on marine life, because we can only measure the casualties that we can see directly, and can really only count the animals that wash up on the beaches. This means that the devastation to animal life is far more severe than we realize.