December 17, 2015

Dead Blob

Several people have asked me about the "BLOB"--the area of very warm water over the NE Pacific Ocean that has plagued our region for roughly two years.

The short answer:  the  BLOB is DEAD.  Sorry for putting it bluntly, but it is better that way.

Here is the sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly (the difference from normal).  Red is considerably warmer than normal.  Lots of red offshore of the West Coast (the BLOB).  Also much warmer than normal SSTs along the equator over the Pacific (that is associated with El Nino).

 Compare that with the SST anomaly yesterday.  Major cooling over the NE Pacific.  The BLOB is gone.   But El Nino is still going strong.
Why is the BLOB dead?   Because the mother of the BLOB--an area of persistent high pressure over the NE Pacific--is gone.  The high pressure was associated with light winds, which did not produce the normal mixing in the upper layers of the ocean.   Plenty of mixing this year, which brings up cooler water from below.

So be sad for the BLOB, but be happy for our local ski areas.


  1. ?!?! the maps you used are confusing. Both still show considerate warm SSTs in the eastern pacific. The blob and ones stating "el Nino occurs after the 1st" when it's been at +3 Celsius for the last 3 months are in denial. The reason we are in the pattern we have been in is directly correlated to the blob. Consistent strong high pressure NE of Hawaii plus the press of El NiƱo wanting to deliver storms to the west coast has been very oblivious the last month to the PNW. The blob is still alive!

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  3. What are the implications for next summer. Will this help hold temperatures down, or is that too far out for any predictions?

  4. Cliff, the first plot is a weekly average while the second plot is a daily average. Could it be that there are day to day fluctuations and you need to average over a time frame? It might be informative to show time series of the temperature over NE Pacific from July to December 16th in order to understand how the temperatures fluctuate.

  5. Smokejumper...

    The first image is from July, the second from December. Look directly off the West Coast of the US - July shows a HUGE red blob, December does not.

  6. There is still *some* warm water out in the northeast Pacific, just not as much as before. And if the active storm pattern dies out and a ridge re-develops instead, a warm blob could re-establish pretty quickly I bet.

  7. Here's the NOAA web page the maps come from:
    You can see that using the daily vs weekly makes no real difference- but funnest of all are the animation, especially the one in the lower right for the annual loop of the SST...Watching the Gulf of Alaska in that, I'm willing to join in calling the blob dead!

  8. Okay the blob is dead. But is the RRR dead as well? And December has not provided CA anything close to the classic El Nino precipitation pattern. Yet the CPC's long-term forecasts have the classic El Nino QPF's . . . what gives? We haven't seen any classic patterns for strong El Nino years. The wet northwest, dry+cold SoCal, and wet+cold northern CA isn't classic.

  9. May be it is dead in the north, but not in the south. Record SST anomalies persist off the west coast of Baja.


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