Putting dollar figures on it may help promote climate stabilization and reduce climate change.
The Blob … is a pool of much hotter than normal water that has become increasingly entrenched in the North-East Pacific. A surface zone of record ocean warmth that has persisted and intensified in the same region for the better part of two years.
It’s an ocean feature of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge which has warded storms off the North American West Coast over the past couple of years. A likely upshot of an ongoing Arctic heating ...
That area of yellow and red, indicating extra warm ocean water down to 300 feet is "The Blob".
... it appears to be heating up ...
The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, H in above map, is a very persist high pressure feature in the air above The Blob. Robert Scribbler describes how winds blowing over the heated water bring warm air over Western Canada and the US, melting snowpacks and encouraging wildfires. He also mentions,
... recent severe impacts to sea life as found in a March 17 study by NOAA. ...including ... likely less vital salmon fisheries, bird deaths, marine mammal deaths and starving sea lions due to scarcity of food sources. In addition, the warm temperatures have been linked to a starfish wasting sickness that has killed off millions of sea stars up and down the North American West Coast.
What the NOAA report did not include was growing evidence that warming waters off the US West Coast have (when combined with eutriphication due to atmospheric nitrogen seeding through fossil fuel burning and farm nutrient runoff), since the early 2000s, resulted in increasingly dangerous low ocean oxygen levels (see Starving Sea Lion Pups and Liquified Starfish). It’s a one-two warming and oxygen loss that is pretty amazingly dangerous to ocean life.
... the real kicker, the icing on the cake of this extreme event is almost certainly climate change. Specifically for the hot Blob zone, general greenhouse gas warming of the adjacent Arctic called Polar Amplification has tended to generate a weakness in the Jet Stream directly over the region. This weakness has tended to aid in Ridiculously Resilient Ridge development ... [emphasis mine]
Warm surface waters spreading over the ocean can serve as a kind of lid. The warm water prevents cooler water from upwelling toward the surface, mixing nutrients and refreshing the water’s oxygen levels. This shut down of overturning is a dangerous oceanic condition called stratification. And it can level a severe blow to almost all creatures along the marine food chain. Plankton become less productive. Low oxygen zones expand, killing the slow-moving bottom creatures all while driving the mobile fish to more productive waters. In the warmer waters, toxic algae blooms become more prevalent. Harmful microbes, which are culled during influxes of cold water, thrive and multiply, posing a disease threat to all marine species. Finally, in the deeper reaches off the coasts of Washington and Oregon, the already oxygen-poor zones, zones rife with methane from hydrate venting, begin producing a deadly seep of hydrogen sulfide gas.
And all it took was a little extra added heat to lock west coast waters in an expanding zone of warm water and low oxygen marine mortality. [emphasis mine]
This is what it looked like in 2013.
(The signature of ocean stratification expansion — low oxygen zones. Note the large and expanding region of low oxygen in the Eastern Pacific. For reference, high oxygen is shown in greens, blues and purples, low oxygen shown in oranges, reds and black. Image source: AMOP’s Study of Oxygen Minimum Zones. Image date: 2013.)
... under business as usual human carbon emissions, the deadly, low-oxygen ocean zones are expected to expand, eventually covering the majority of the world ocean system. It’s a transition to a stratified ocean that will make the current west-coast die-off look like a minor prelude by comparison.
During upwelling events, the hydrogen sulfide is brought to the surface where it is visible as a florescent green or black slick. Under stratified and Canfield Oceans, more and more regions are capable of supporting deadly hydrogen sulfide production. Currently, the Baltic Sea, Offshore Namibia, the Chesapeake Bay, and Offshore Oregon are known to host broad regions of hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria in anoxic dead zones. Only in Nambia do these zones occasionally reach the surface waters, so far. Image source: Earth Observatory/NASA.) [emphasis mine]
As deeper reaches off the Washington and Oregon coasts are already producing hydrogen sulfide as we're less than one degree C above the pre-industrial average, given that our ongoing failure to cut fossil fuels has already locked us into more than 2 degrees rise, it's just a question of how many years until H2S fumes waft ashore in Northwest US and Canada.
When I shared Hansen's Phases of Climate Change, I imagined a very gradual transition to Phase 2 . It's shocking to realize that Pacific ocean stratification has already been killing our wildlife on a massive scale and that H2S is already brewing in The Blob and Chesapeake Bay. It's a horror story.
Thanks Ruth! How I wish it was only the strawberry jam blob from the old B-movie...
As usual, Ruth, very interesting and informative--and SCARY! Thanks for the post.
The Blob of hot water off the US west coast just brought us a record red tide!
... today, a massive Red Tide — perhaps the largest ever recorded — now stretches from California to Alaska along a vast stretch of the North American West Coast already reeling under the ongoing and dangerous impact of a massive ocean heating event that researchers have called ‘The Blob.’
... crab and shellfish fisheries all up and down the US West Coast are being closed. Impacts are so widespread marine ecologists..., are calling the event unpredented:
“The fact that we’re seeing multiple toxins at the same time, we’re seeing high levels of domoic acid, and we’re seeing a coastwide bloom — those are indications that this is unprecedented.”
... perhaps the largest and most toxin laden Red Tide ever seen.
This particular Red Tide is still in its early stages. It could last for weeks. But as it reaches its last days, the mass production of microbial life will rob the ocean surface of the nutrients necessary to sustain it. As this happens, the microbes will experience a sudden die-off. The mass of dead microbes will then sink and decay. This decay will further rob already de-oxygenated waters, particularly off Washington and Seattle, of still more oxygen. So the final act of this particular Red Tide will be to make a bad ocean water oxygen situation in many of the affected regions even worse (in the worst case potentially setting some zones up for an ugly dee...).
From a 2014 article on hydrogen sulfide, especially off the Oregon coast
Our lives and the life of the ocean are deeply connected. One cannot remain healthy without the other.
The damage our continued industrial emission of greenhouse gasses is doing to the world ocean system is a horrific travesty.
Yet we still continue down the wretched path in pursuit of more terrible things to come.
The toxic algae bloom now extends from Southern California to Alaska, and isn't going away.
... an unprecedented bloom of toxic algae that spans the Pacific Coast of the United States and Canada, raising health concerns and leading to multimillion-dollar income losses from closed fisheries.
The bloom, which emerged in May, stretches thousands of miles from the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California to Alaska's Aleutian Islands and has surprised researchers by its size and composition.
The runaway bloom of pseudo-nitzschia algae is believed to have been spawned in part by unusually warm ocean water along the West Coast that scientists have dubbed "the blob."
"Whether this is or is not due to climate change, I think it provides a window to the future of what we could see happen under climate change scenarios,"...
NOAA said contaminated seafood can also cause amnesic shellfish poisoning in humans, a serious illness that can lead to short-term memory loss, brain damage and even death. [emphasis mine]
image source "The brownish bloom was particularly thick off the coast of Santa Barbara,... (from source)
The largest harmful West Coast algal bloom in more than a decade is closing shellfish fisheries in Washington, Oregon and California and has NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle scrambling to chart the extent of the threat.More HerePerhaps this is because of Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).
Putting dollar figures on it may help promote climate stabilization and reduce climate change.
Thanks, Chris. I'm just beginning to realize how extensive and dangerous that bloom is, green in the map below. Along the US coast it's 40 miles wide and 600 feet deep.
Our toxic bloom is one among many, though. During Summer, since 2000, areas of the Arctic Ocean that melt are hosting huge blooms too, here's one in the Barents Sea in July, 2015.
A large one off of Antarctica keeps reappearing too.
I just read an extremely depressing article on what the world's oceans will be like by 2100.
It predicts large-scale permanent anoxic areas, possibly as much as a fifth of the oceans.
The RobertScribbler blog reminds us that a similar mechanism was responsible for 5 of the 6 mass extinction events. The fact that hydrogen sulfide can be smelled off of the Antarctic blooms isn't reassuring.
In all the great mass extinction events but, possibly, one, this heat-driven filling up of the world ocean with deadly hydrogen sulfide gas during hothouse periods represents the major killing mechanism. The other impacts of hothouse waters — ocean acidification and habitat displacement — do provide killing stresses. But the combined zero oxygen environment filled with a deadly gas generates zones of near absolute death in which few things but microbes and jellyfish can live. In rock strata, the anoxic, zones are marked by regions of black as the hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria-filled waters eventually take on the color of tar. In the lesser extinctions, these black zones are confined to the lower ocean levels. In the greater ones, they rise higher and higher.
During the Great Dying, the oceans brimmed full of the stuff. Black, purple and neon green waters bubbled to the surface to belch their lethal loads of hydrogen sulfide gas into the airs. The gas was deadly toxic to land plants and animals alike. And it eventually wafted into the skies, turning it from blue to gr....
In this terrible way, more than 99 percent of all living things were killed off.
Ruth, thank you again, for this valuable information. Without information, renders one helpless.
With information that is beyond our control, renders us helpless.
So, what is one to do?
The best one can to be informed, make smart choices, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
"An anomalous pattern that risks an extreme storm potential energy delivery running from Equator to Arctic" is developing in the Pacific, in which El Nino and the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge [RRR] funnel one storm after another from the equator east of Japan on a diagonal toward the Bering straight and through into the Arctic Ocean.
It’s a new, odd storm track. One that, depending on the strength and orientation of the Arctic high either ends in the Bering, or runs all the way to the Pole itself. A heat and moisture delivery system that begins to take form in August but that, during recent years, has churned along through Fall, Winter and Spring.
Here's the latest general prediction for the impact of El Nino on the US.
"The Blob" has been vanquished.
... meteorologist blogger Cliff Mass announced the death of the “blob” in the northeast Pacific Ocean.
While some had speculated that the “blob” could throw a wrench into this winter’s super El Niño forecast, most meteorologists (including Mass) expected the El Niño to win the battle to influence North America this winter. And wow has it been winning!
Water temperatures are still marginally warmer than normal in the Gulf of Alaska area, indicative of a positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation, but they are nowhere near the super-warm anomalies we saw last summer or in the prior two winters: