File - In this Sept. 14, 2017, file photo, salmon circle just below the surface inside a lock where they joined boats heading from salt water Shilshole Bay into fresh water Salmon Bay at the Ballard Locks in Seattle. Federal scientists say they’re monitoring a new ocean heat wave off the West Coast. Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, the expanse of unusually warm water stretches from Alaska to California, and it resembles a similar heatwave that disrupted marine life five years ago. It remains to be seen whether this heat wave will linger or dissipate more quickly than the last one. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Wedge-shaped marine heat wave blankets B.C.’s west coast, concerning scientists

So far, the warm expanse has been held offshore by cold water welling from the ocean depths

The blob is back — but this time, it looks a little more like a wedge.

Scientists are keeping a close eye on a thin blanket of warm water off the West Coast for about three months, saying it resembles a marine heat wave nicknamed “the blob” that disrupted marine life between 2014 and 2016.

“If it is the same, then it’s very concerning for marine mammals that depend on fish, for seabirds that depend on fish, but also for ocean productivity,” said Andrew Trites, the director of the marine mammal research unit at the University of British Columbia.

The heat wave — which resembles a wedge, stretching from the south of Vancouver Island to Baja, Calif., and offshore towards Hawaii — has raised temperatures about three to four degrees Celsius higher than the normal longterm average for those parts of the ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“You put on a sweater, you take off a coat,” Trites said. ”But for a marine life it’s a big deal. In the ocean it’s a big deal.”

NOAA research scientist Nate Mantua noted that this year’s wedge is at this point less severe than the blob of 2014 to 2016, because it’s only been around for a few months.

Three to five years ago, the warm water penetrated to depths of 200 to 300 metres, while right now it’s mostly between 30 and 50 metres, he said.

“It’s a blanket over the ocean and that means it could go away pretty quickly if the winds start blowing in a normal way,” Mantua said. “That usually happens at this time of the year as we transition into fall.”

So far, the warm expanse has been held offshore by cold water welling from the ocean depths, he said.

“A lot of marine life that we interact with and we see is concentrated closer to shore in the most productive waters of the northeast Pacific,” he said. “Because it’s offshore its mostly affecting those less productive waters.”

But in addition to being able to dissipate the wedge, winds also have the power to make the heat wave worse.

“Winds have a direct impact on the way heat is exchanged,” he said.

And Mantua said California may already be seeing some of the effects from the warmer waters: NOAA’s surveys have recently noted higher concentration of anchovies — and the big predators that feed on them — close to shore waters.

There’s also been indications that some fish stocks have changed their distribution, he added.

ALSO READ: Threats, abuse move from online to real world, McKenna now requires security

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Reopening of Gwaii Haanas delayed until 2021

Archipelago Management Board says ‘Haida traditional use of the area may continue’

Haida Gwaii doctor wins lifetime achievement award

Dr. Tracy Morton recognized by Rural Coordination Centre of BC

Haida hereditary leader attends first Prince Rupert totem pole raising in 30 years

Lead carver Lyle Campbell raised 40-foot memorial totem pole Aug. 11 in memory of his mother Alice

Haida GwaiIdol premiere may include special guest performance

Lineup includes musicians, dancer, comedian and more; One of the judges ‘may do a guest performance’

Rennell Sound road access to be closed over Labour Day weekend

Haida Gwaii Natural Resource District temporarily closing Rennell Road Aug. 31 to Sept. 7

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Most Read