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Weather — The Blob Returns

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Predictions for the winter of 2018-2019 is for warmer, wetter weather. Part of the reason? It’s called the blob.

That’s what Washington State climatologist Nick Bond calls the phenomenon. He discovered it five-years ago. The blob is a large mass of water found in the Pacific Ocean off the West coast that is an average of three to four degrees warmer than the average of the rest of the ocean. Last time the phenomenon hit the West coast it lasted three years from 2015 to 2017.

The blob is formed when a super ridge of high pressure warms the water. Weather along the West coast depends on the Pacific Ocean and warm water in the Pacific means freaky weather until it dissipates.

The first blob combined with an El Nino back in 2015. It was Washington State’s hottest year on record. It led to a mild winter, and to a low snow pack and another hottest year on record. Now it is back and it is huge. The blob stretches from the mid-Pacific in the North to the Bering Sea and into the Arctic Ocean. It flows down the Coast of British Columbia and heads South along the West Coast to Mexico.

Scientists from Washington State and from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) spent quite a bit of time studying the blob and came to some alarming conclusions. Expect low salmon returns, the dying off of sturgeon, salmon and other fish as well as whales, sea otters, sea lions, birds and other animals.

Bond said, “The warm water is not just a surface phenomenon along the top layer of the sea. It reached about 80 meters in depth off Alaska and 200 meters in some spots off the West Coast.”

The state’s assistant climatologist Karin Bumbaco agrees and added, “The current blob has been closely tied to the dry weather we’ve experienced in Washington state. But since the ocean will respond quickly to changing weather patterns this time of year, I don’t expect the warmer ocean temperatures to impact our seasonal weather at this time.”

Bumbaco added that the blob is related to global warming. It — however — is not necessarily totally tied to climate change.

“Global warming has caused a slow upward temperature trend in the world’s oceans, including the North Pacific. The blob of 2013-16 and the more recent event would not be nearly as large without that baseline warming.” And with that she made a prediction.

“We are expecting a weak El Nino to develop this winter. Our winters tend to be on the warmer and drier side during El Nino events, particularly after Jan. 1, which would mean we have less snow pack by April 1, 2019,” she added. 


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