The weather has been weird, and scientists have found that a strange “blob” of warm water is to be blamed. Located off the West Coast, this patch of water is warmer by 2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit than normal.
Nick Bond, a climate scientist for the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, said that scientists started noticing the blob between the fall of 2013 and the early months of 2014. After doing some observations, scientists realized that the mass of water wasn’t cooling off as it usually did. When spring of 2014 rolled in, the blob even became warmer – the hottest ever recorded for that area in that time of year.
Bond officially called the water mass “the blob” last June 2014 in a monthly newsletter released in his capacity as state climatologist of Washington. The blob was described as stretching 1,000 miles in every direction and going as deep as 300 feet.
By April this year, the blob has been located off Washington’s shores, squished against the coast while extending 1,000 miles offshore between Mexico and Alaska. According to Bond, weather models are indicating that the blob will continue until at least the end of 2015.
A paper authored by Meghan Cronin, Nate Mantua and Howard Freeland explored the origins of the blob, finding that the water mass is related to the persistent ridge of high pressure that led to calmer oceans during the past two winters where not as much heat was lost to the cold air above. This means that the warmer winter being experienced has nothing to do with more heating but less cooling.
When scientists explored the blob’s effect on marine life, they saw that fish in the West Coast were swimming to unusual places, supporting recent findings that ecosystems are suffering and warm, less nutritious Pacific Ocean water is disrupting the food web.
nland, the blob also has an effect, causing less snow and more heat as air passes over warmer waters. This is what’s partly responsible for drought conditions in Washington, Oregon and California.
At the same time, the blob is one of the elements in a broader pattern being exhibited by the Pacific Ocean, whose influences are far-ranging, possibly including the heavy winters the eastern portion of the United States has been experiencing in the past two years.
“This is a taste of what the ocean will be like in future decades. It wasn’t caused by global warming, but it’s producing conditions that we think are going to be more common with global warming,” said Bond.
This article originally appeared on techtimes.com