A new animation shows how a mass of warm water in the northeast Pacific waxes in the summer and wanes in the winter.
“Most of what we look at is monthly summaries, and it seemed interesting to do it on a daily time scale to see how dynamic its features were, and how they developed and moved over time,” says Tom Wainwright, research fisheries biologist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Newport Research Station in Oregon.
To produce the visualization, Wainwright used two years of sea surface temperature data gathered by ships, buoys and satellites to show movement or changes in the strength of The Blob. In places where there were no surface measurements or where cloud cover obscured the ocean, Wainwright said the blended data set interpolated temperatures over time or an area.
Wainwright said a big surprise is the mass of warm water that appeared in Bristol Bay and eastern Bering Sea during the summer of 2014.
“It seemed The Blob spread across the Aleutian (Islands and Alaska) Peninsula and Bristol Bay,” Wainwright said. “Since I work down in Oregon and Washington, I hadn’t really looked at that before. I don’t know how it’s affecting Bristol Bay fisheries.”
Wainwright said he primarily produces short-term salmon forecasts for fisheries managers and long-term modeling for endangered species listings. Salmon are a cold water species that can be stressed when summer temperatures are higher than normal.
“Any periods of warm temperature – at least for the stocks down here – seem to reduce the productivity of salmon,” Wainwright said. “They get very high growth rates when temperatures are warm, but their survival isn’t as good.”