(TMU) — Huge stretches of the Pacific Ocean extending from Hawaii to just off the coast of California, and all the way north to the shores of Alaska, are being engulfed in a massive heatwave that scientists are referring to as a “blob.”
If the name sounds familiar, that‘s because from 2014 to 2015, a similar event happened: the original “blob,” which earned the strange name due to its appearance in weather maps as a massive red splotch stretching over about 10 million square kilometers (roughly 386 million square miles), reports Sierra Club.
At the time of the first Pacific blob, thousands of starving sea lion pups began washing up on California’s beaches, overwhelming rescue efforts. The devastation of the sea lion population was driven by a lack of high-quality food for the sea lions’ mothers, which in turn was a result of overheated waters in the Pacific Ocean thanks to the unprecedented heatwave at the time.
At the same time, millions of cod were vanishing from the waters off southern Alaska. Algae blooms overwhelmed fish and shellfish, in turn rendering food supplies for birds and other predators poisonous, resulting in mass die-offs. Crab and clam fisheries were shut down, and whales who sought food closer to the shores were trapped in fishing gear.
And now, the domino effect wrought by the last “blob” has roared back with a vengeance—and the implications are likely to be grave.
EYE ON EARTH: This year has been the warmest for our planet's oceans in recorded history. As a result, a dangerous heatwave in the Pacific Ocean, known as the “blob," is re-forming & could threaten a key food source for marine life. https://t.co/CJQbZAHq1h pic.twitter.com/8dGk0LuQ08
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) September 17, 2019
Andrew Leising, a research oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said:
“We are talking at least four to five times bigger than the state of Alaska. So, it is huge.
The typical size of a heatwave over the last 40 years is only about 1.5 to 2 million kilometers squared, so these are really big outliers.”
While the strandings haven’t hit yet, they are likely to begin in the spring and summer. In the meantime, Hawaii is in the midst of a full-blown coral bleaching wave. The coral being impacted is barely bouncing back from the last “blob,” and even fast-growing coral can take anywhere from 10 to 15 years to recover from bleaching events.
NOAA oceanographer Jamison Gove said:
“Places around Oahu, Maui, and the west coast of the Big Island are all showing signs of bleaching.”
To make matters worse, the overheating ocean could set in motion other extreme weather events.
University of Washington marine heatwave researcher Hillary Scannell said:
“Hawaii is literally sitting in the middle of the southern limb of this marine heat wave … If these ocean temperatures persist into the fall longer than the atmospheric forcing, I worry that these conditions could intensify any possible tropical storms that might develop in this region.”
And as the marine heat wave extends toward the U.S. West Coast, it could exacerbate the risk that California could suffer the kind of biblical-scale fires it has undergone in the recent past.
“Marine heat waves have been around in the past, and they will be around in the future, but climate change is making them more severe and frequent.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years
Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.
Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.
The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.
Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.
It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.
“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”
Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.
Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.
“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.
“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”
Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.
“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.
Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.
“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”
In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.
Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.
A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.