“The Blob,” a gigantic and infamous pool of hot water in the Gulf of Alaska once declared dead only to rise again, looks to have finally met its end.
“There’s still slight excess heat in the northeast Pacific, but not much,” said Rick Thoman, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Alaska, who this week predicted The Blob’s demise.
Some had begun to wonder whether it would ever die. “While El Niño is dead, the Blob lives on,” Alaska Public Media reported at the end of July.
In its day, The Blob was powerful and unprecedented in modern times. It’s warming reach stretched from coastal Alaska all the way south to Oregon.
“It was big in the weather news in 2014 and 2015 as a huge warm pool of warm water just off the Pacific Coast and produced a corresponding warming effect akin to living next to a big electric blanket,” Seattle’s KOMONews.com reported. “It has had major blame factor in: The 2014-15 winter being the warmest on record, 2015 being the hottest summer on record, eating our snowpack and not only messing with our Skagit Valley Tulip Festival schedule but even our autumn leaves.”
The Blob was credited, in part, for helping to carry Alaska into September and October warmth that bucked a global trend. While the rest of the world was finally starting to cool down a little, Alaska was still running a fever.
That has ended, as if anyone witnessing the cold north winds whistling through Alaska’s largest city on Friday had to be told. Coming off a colder than normal December, the first colder than normal month in more than a year in Anchorage, the city looked to be staring into the face of a colder than normal January, too.
The National Climate Center was predicting a high probability the entirety of Alaska will remain colder for at least the next two weeks.
And the big, red smear of “The Blob” on the sea surface temperature charts of the North Pacific was gone.
The ecological implications of this will only be sorted in the future, but some might view the demise of The Blob as a good thing given all the bad for which it was blamed.
“The Blob That Cooked the Pacific,” National Geographic magazine headlined in September above a story that linked The Blob to dead fin whales of Alaska’s Kodiak Island, dying sea otters in Kachemak Bay, disappearing sea stars from Sitka south to Santa Barbara, dying seabirds by the hundreds of thousands all along the coast, and much, much more.
But now The Blob has died.
What killed it?
Fluid dynamics, Thoman said.
The air constantly spinning around the globe shifted, as it so often does. The shift put the weather back on track west to east across the North Pacific Ocean instead of oscillating south to north as it has in recent years.
Big storms following the new Pacific track played havoc with The Blob.
“Those repeated storms churned up the seas,” Thoman said. The churning was severe enough it started bring up cold water from deep in the ocean. Warm surface water was pushed deeper where it began to chill.
It was like taking a bathtub full of water too hot, turning off the hot water faucet, running the cold and stirring the tub’s temperature down, down, down.
Now, Thoman said, the ocean is back to near normal.
Or at least what passes for normal in an always changing system.