Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Blob is Weakening

 It is sad but true.  The Blob, the area of above normal sea surface temperatures in the northeast Pacific, is weakening, particularly near the U.S. West Coast.

The plot of the sea surface temperature anomaly (difference from normal) for today (Wednesday) shows normal or even below normal sea surface temperatures along the west coast and extending well offshore of the Northwest.  This is a major change over the past few weeks.  A few months ago the sea surface temperatures off our coast were roughly 5F above normal.  No more.  There is still some BLOB warmth further offshore, but I suspect that will weaken over time now.

Another way to see that change is to look at one of the offshore NOAA buoys.  Take buoy 46089 located off the Columbia River (see map)


In early September, the sea surface temperature at that location was up to around  67F, which is very warm.   The temperatures have fallen to about 60F today, a large drop of 7F.


Other buoys have shown the same thing.

Why the change?  The upper level flow pattern has changed dramatically.  Well into September there was anomalous high pressure over the Pacific (red colors below, Sept 22-28).  High pressure is associated with light winds and weaker than normal mixing in the upper ocean. With less mixing of cold water to the surface, the surface temperatures are above normal.

But the pattern has really changed recently, with below normal  sea level pressure (low pressure systems with strong winds) now over the Gulf of Alaska.  Bad for the BLOB.

We are now going into the stormy season for the North Pacific and it is unlikely that conditions will be good for the BLOB.  Expect more weakening during the next week.

And this is all good news.   Excessively warm water in the NE Pacific is bad for the marine food chain, leading to poor salmon runs and other problems.  So although the Blob may be sad, this is positive news for everyone else.




14 comments:

  1. Thank you for saying what I knew was coming. Wasn't happy the blob got all this attention the past few weeks when I knew it was going away.

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  2. Cliff, I'm curious to learn how recent "blobs of warm water" in the N Pacific compare to the range of similar warmings. That is, I'm assuming that NOAA has been tracking this information for many years. There must be a bell curve graph or a similar graph generated that would show where recent years fit in a range and indicate previous, maybe even more intense, years. But is that the case?

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  3. I always enjoy reading your blog posts regarding pacific northwest climate and weather. I am from Vancouver Island and ready for the stormy season. Does this weakening of the blob possibly mean more storms and colder weather later into the fall and beginning of Winter? Thanks, Kevin

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  4. Stevens pass is supposed to get 23 or 41 inches over the weekend which is insane

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  5. What's the deal with all that hot water pouring into the Arctic Ocean as shown on your first graf?

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    1. Good question. I hope Cliff will give us an answer.

      Goodbye Blob! I hope you wither away and never come back. I fact I am pulling for a new round of glaciation. It's been, what, 10,000 years? Aren't we due for another real cold spell? Let's see the last of Morgan Palmer at KIRO-TV.

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    2. It's not actually hot water. That graph is measuring current sea surface temps vs long term average. What it's actually showing is that those areas were normally ice covered by now (or at least until the last decade or so). So 38F vs 32F looks like a huge anomaly (cause it is), but actually water temps are not "hot".

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    3. Alaska, and the Arctic in general, is the place where you can't help but admit the magnitude and pace of climate change. Those who focus on climate change in the small part of the world that is the Pacific Northwest, while ignoring what is going on elsewhere and globally, are just saying "Thankfully the hole is in the other end of the boat."

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  6. eagerly looking forward to your comments on that other Blob of the Pacific Northwest.

    yeah, look north. You know...... north of 49, where you usual notions of region tend to stop

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  7. No Stevens Pass itself is not supposed to get that much, if you read the Winter Storm Warning, and advisories You will clearly see Stevens Pass itself is supposed to get 6 too possibly 10 inches of snow at the base, yes near Mt Rainier and at elevations of 5,000 feet or more yes about 2 feet is forecast, that is much higher than Stevens Pass, and next week is supposed to be a touch warmer and defiantly drier for 5 too 6 days before storms possibly again after Halloween...very typical fall weather, cool then warmer/drier, then cool again...I am as excited about ski season, and Winter weather as you seem to be, but need to be realistic, and also please realize what you are reading in a forecast. Just saw Kiro 7 forecast which says 6 inches max at Stevens, I agree more up top, but not 41 inches, not even close... and next week you will get a lot of melt out with dry, sunny weather, esp with the wet nature of the snow, Dont get really excited till Mid-November when we can build a base, cooler temps, and its here to stay....This is just to all ski lovers, give it time, it will happen, and dont take a forecast as a generalization as many due,there are defiantly small details such as elevation, Temps, incoming water that you need to be aware of, and Winter Storm Warning does say 4,000 feet an Higher, meaning Stevens itself will get some snow, yes, but more like 6 inches like forecast says, more up higher such as Sunrise and Paradise which are at 5400 feet, much higher, must pay attention to the details......Thanks

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    1. Still sounds like a decent snow event for third week of October?
      I don't ski and don't go that far north...but we have seen some snow down at Hood already and I can remember many years where the woods were closed to hunting in October due to fire danger.
      I'm a fisherman and veggie gardener and this was the wettest July, August and September that I remember.
      And I surely wouldn't rate October as an "Indian Summer :P

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  8. Cliff, I'm all about the salmon! Good to know.

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