Separate from the coming El Nino year, an ocean temperature anomaly has been lingering in the Pacific in the shape of a massive "blob" of unusually warm water, up to five degrees warmer than usual. As the Mercury-News reports, a group of scientists believes the blob may be responsible for keeping rain away from the California coast, and for more than a year has been "profoundly affecting climate and marine life from Baja California to Alaska."
It's a little disturbing that this anomaly is so anomalous that even oceanographers don't have a better term for it than "blob." But over 100 of them gathered in April at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla to share data on it, and that's what they were calling it. As the LA Times reported, it could just be that the blob is a manifestation of what's known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO which could, like a decades-long El Nino, usher in a warm, wetter era of weather and a spike in global temperatures.
The blob has recently become two blobs off the Pacific coast, due to a seasonal upwelling of colder water off Northern California which split it up, as you can see in the illustration above.
Scientist theorize that the cause of this big warm anomaly is a lack of wind over the Pacific which would normally stir up more cold water from the deep sea. But they don't really understand what's causing the lack of wind.
And in addition to climate impacts, like exacerbating our four-year drought, all that warm water is having a major ripple effect up the food chain for marine mammals and it's the obvious culprit in a recent epidemic of stranded or starving sea lions. Scientists can't say if this blob is to blame for the uptick in dead whales, though.
And they can't say whether the El Nino-related ocean temperature shift "will exacerbate or neutralize the blob." There is also the possibility a drought-busting El Nino arrives this winter, but dumps most of its rain in Southern California. Stay tuned.