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Seafloor Samplings Reveal Ghosts of Blobs Past

November 25, 2015

A huge mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is causing problems off the coast of Oregon and Washington. The so-called “blob” is being blamed for toxic algae blooms, which have caused marine mammal deaths and crabbing closures.

New evidence shows this isn’t the first time the blob has appeared off the Northwest coast.

Oregon State University scientists collected core samples off the coast of Alaska that revealed two different blobs in the past 15-thousand years – both formed during a time of rapid climate warming.  

“They last on the order of a thousand years, or a few thousand years.  And we’re seeing that they change the whole ecosystem of a region,” says co-author Alan Mix, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

The research shows also shows a link between the blobs and hypoxic, or low-oxygen, marine dead zones in the North Pacific.  

Mix says there are similarities between the past blobs and what’s happening now. Understanding how they’re connected could reveal if the Pacific Northwest blob is a short-term visitor, or if it’s here to stay.  

The research was published in the Nov. 19, 2015 issue of the journal Nature.

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A gray whale breaching in the Pacific Ocean.

Courtesey of NOAA