It's alive! 'The blob' lingers at new depth, scientists say
Marine ecosystems still at risk as 'the blob' sinks deeper below the surface, says DFO
The giant ocean 'blob' isn't dead — yet.
The warm patch of water that stretches along the Pacific Coast is currently resting several hundred metres below the surface of the ocean, despite earlier reports that it had dissipated, according to new data.
"What we're finding is that the upper waters are being mixed by the wind again and coming back to normal temperatures, but the residual effect of the blob is still there at about 150 to 200 metres [below the surface]," said Ian Perry, a senior research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The blob was widely pronounced dead earlier this year after satellite heat images no longer detected abnormally warm waters on the surface of the Pacific Coast. However, the imaging only read up to 40 metres below the surface, said Perry.
Vertical measurements conducted by the DFO's Canadian Coast Guard vessels indicate the blob now lives deeper below the surface. According to Perry, at this depth the warm water continues to prevent the mixing of nutrients to the ocean's upper-layer, which has harmed coastal ecosystems over the past two years.
La Niña to the rescue
Preliminary data from the most recent vertical measurements conducted by the DFO, however, are indicating that the blob might be starting to weaken at the new depth, said Perry.
Over the next few months, it's expected that La Niña — an ocean-atmospheric system that has a cooling effect on surface temperatures across the east-central equatorial Pacific — will work to bring temperatures down to normal levels.
"I think this La Niña event will help cool it off," said Nick Bond, a research meteorologist at the University of Washington. "[But] our climate models are indicating that, because of all the accumulated heat, that it's going to take a while for that to happen — at least through the remainder of this year."
According to Bond, temperatures are currently between 0.5 C to 1.0 C above average at the 150 metres deep mark throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Bond was the first to discover the warm patch of water in 2014 and coined the now iconic moniker, 'the blob'. He spent the next two years studying the phenomenon and expects it to be a preview of extreme weather events to come in the wake of climate change.
"We're all interested in this, but it kind of makes us nervous also. It shows us just how sensitive our systems are to climate and atmosphere," he added.