It vexed meteorologists for years. It played a role in California’s devastating drought and wildfires. It led to bizarre tropical sea life in new places, made 100 million cod disappear from fisheries, and is suspected in sea lion deaths. And now it’s mysteriously disappearing as strangely as it arrived. The Pacific blob is significantly cooler and shrinking if not gone, according to a new NOAA fisheries report on the temperature, currents, and fish taken from the strangely (formerly) warm patch of water.
“This is a time of transition in the California Current Ecosystem, and the ocean and marine life reflect that,” said report co-editor Chris Harvey, an ecologist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.
“What we don’t know yet is where the transition will take us – whether the system will stabilize, or keep changing.”
It’s come and gone before, and will likely keep coming and going to come. But for now, it’s gone, and that means a change back to “normal,” right? No. Volatility is the only certain thing.
So what killed “the Blob”? University of Washington professor and weather blogger, Cliff Mass puts it succinctly: “Persistent storminess over the northeast Pacific, something that is no surprise to the storm-battered residents of the Pacific Northwest. ”
He explains more on his wonderfully wonkish blog:
“The BLOB forms with persistent high pressure that is associated with weaker winds. Weak winds do not mix the upper ocean as much as strong wind, thus bringing up less cool water from below. Persistent low pressure, with higher winds, are good at mixing, thus reducing water temperatures. That is what has been going on lately,” wrote Mass in a December blog first spotting the shift.
Months later, it’s disappeared completely. Unfortunately, its effects have not.
NOAA writes, “This perspective echoes other recent reports from around the world that note the increasing frequency of climatic disturbances is making it hard for ecosystems to recover before being knocked out of whack again. “
So, weather conditions may shift more quickly than the fisheries and other ocean life impacted by the nutrient-poor warm water can.