The Blob Credit: weatherchannel

The Blob
Credit: weatherchannel

Fish Radio

Blob effects in Alaska watch dogged by AOOS

August 28, 2015

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Effects of the Blob in Alaska waters. More after this —

 

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Fish deaths, drought in California – those sad happenings and more are being blamed on a giant blob of warm water pushed against coastlines on the West Coast, Canada and into Alaska. It spans 1,000 miles in each direction and runs 300 feet deep.

They call it the blob because of its original circular shape on the sea surface. However, this feature is not static, it’s constantly reshaping itself in circulation from mixing so over the course of two years it has spread itself along the west coast.  

Carol Janzen is an oceanographer and Operations Director at the Alaska Ocean Observing System in Anchorage. The Blob stems from an unusual weather pattern of high pressure that caused a ridge over the Pacific.

  Some people call it the ridiculously resilient ridge in fact, and this is centered over the Pacific Northwest. So this ridge of high pressure reduced the intensity of storms reaching landfall, led to reduced precipitation on the west coast. So it’s this ridge that is basically being blamed for the formation of the blob.

The blob’s most immediate impact is on the ocean’s circulation, a prime pump for the entire ecosystem .  Janzen says the warmer water forms a dense layer that reduces the amount mixing, and prevents of nutrient rich colder water from reaching the surface

And it is in this surface  layer that phytoplankton can grow and they need light and nutrients to do this.   Since the phytoplankton are a food source near or at the base of the food chain if you remove or reduce their quantity or change their composition, that can impact the entire food chain. All these processes are linked together but really the underlying driver is the circulation and the physics.  

And, of course, reduced phytoplankton means less food for the fish that feed on it.

So the zooplankton that eat the phytoplankton, and  then there is not enough zooplankton for the fish to eat – you can see the impact of that up the food chain.  

Another red flag for Alaska is appearance of an organism that can produce domoic acid, similar to  Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning.

Scientists expect the Blob phenomenon to remain through this year.

AOOS has a blob tracker with related items on its website. The System team also monitors sea ice in Alaska, last week launched an ecosystem mooring in the Chukchi Sea, and for three years has sponsored a robotic glider mission  that monitors marine mammals from the Bering northward.

Learn more about the “eye on Alaska’s coasts and oceans”  – and enter the short film contest – at www.aoos.org and find links at www.alaskafishradio.com

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods. Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America. www.oceanbeauty.com In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch .

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