Find out what the 'Blob' says about our changing climate.
Saturday, November 28, 2015, 3:20 PM - From devastating winters in Atlantic Canada to droughts in California, the unusually warm mass of water in the Pacific Ocean known as The Blob has had close ties to much of the weather making news in North America.
Now, in an interview with Macleans, oceanographer Richard Dewey says the impact the Blob is having on North America is a preview of what we could face with climate change.
"Will California see more frequent and more severe droughts with climate change? That's a possibility. Will changes in the Arctic keep Alaska warmer than usual? Possibly. Alaska would change dramatically, if it does. California needs snowpack in its mountains to fill its reservoirs. This is why we prefer to call it 'climate change,' not 'global warming,'" Dewey explains. "The planet is not simply warming: rainfall and hydrological patterns are also changing. A change in rainfall might be more dramatic socially and environmentally than a two-degree change in temperature. That is key, and often overlooked."
In fact, the Blob already seems to be affecting the environment off the Canadian west coast.
"Usually, there's a lot of krill-like zooplankton, the primary food for iconic species such as herring and salmon. But there has been almost no krill, so we're seeing far fewer salmon returning to B.C. rivers this fall."
A lack of salmon could have an effect up the food chain with animals like the southern resident killer whales' diets consisting almost exclusively of the fish species. Sea lions, seals, large baleen whales and even birds are also being affected. Cassin's auklet is a small, chunky seabird that usually breeds off the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The birds have been washing up dead from Washington to Oregon at rates up to 100 times higher than the normal amount.
"It's a combination of two things: the good breeding that happened in spring and the warm water that came toward the coast. A lot of these young birds were not familiar enough with how to find food in a different environment." Dr. Ian Perry told The Weather Network. Perry is a research scientist with Fisheries & Oceans Canada. "A lot of birds that wash up ashore appear to be starving."
Odd Bird Dept: the Cassin's Auklet nests in underground burrows. ...and ~100,000+ have washed up dead this season. pic.twitter.com/6j2sVtGZbT— Chris Intagliata (@cintagliata) March 18, 2015
Business also are being affected by the weird weather seemingly attached to the Blob.
"In much of B.C., we've had almost two complete seasons with skiing. There was no snow. The hills were bare. Many resorts only opened for a week or two," Dewey said. "There's tremendous concern in the salmon-fishing community that this year's return is quite reduced in the number and health of returning salmon. The warmer waters have also shut down shellfish fishers. Aquaculture has been effected."
Dewey says that understanding the Blob is crucial. According to him, nothing this extraordinary has been seen before and it could be a precursor to what climate change will bring.
So does 'the Blob' concern him?
"As a scientist, being able to watch and see the whole system change and reveal these new extraordinary patterns makes this an exciting time. But we need to be receptive, pay attention, not be too surprised when we are forced to experience change," he says. "We've just lived the warmest 10 years on record. What have we learned? Can we adapt and minimize impacts?"
MUST-SEE: Take a look at this timelapse of winter in Norway.