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A new warm-water ‘blob’ emerges in the Gulf of Alaska

  • Author: Associated Press
  • Updated: December 11, 2018
  • Published December 11, 2018

JUNEAU - Another mass of warmer than normal water is slowly re-emerging in the Gulf of Alaska, scientists said.

The new “blob” could affect weather and fisheries in Southeast Alaska, but scientists said it doesn’t appear as strong as the first one in 2013, KTOO Public Media reported Monday.

Sea surface temperature anomalies highlight the expansive blob of warm water around Alaska. (earth.nullschool.net)

Washington state climatologist Nick Bond coined the term “blob” to refer to water mass in the Pacific Northwest.

"Without winds to draw heat out of the ocean and to mix up colder water from below, the near-surface waters, again, got quite a bit warmer than normal," Bond said.

The gulf water is about 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal, but it is not as hot or as deep as the 2013 blob.

"This isn't the new normal," Bond said. "But still, it's kind of alarming that we're talking about this sort of thing again so soon."

The blob-like conditions could lead to milder weather in Southeast Alaska, meaning less freezing and more rain, said Rick Thoman, a climatologist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy.

Southeast Alaska is already seeing warmer-than-normal weather. Juneau’s November was 5 degrees above normal, according to the National Weather Service.

The warmer weather could disrupt fish behavior. The previous warm ocean conditions likely contributed to shifts in pollock spawn timing and extended the range of salmon.

Andy Piston, a pink and chum salmon project leader with the state Department of Fish and Game, said a weak pink salmon run of 18 million is projected for next season. The last blob's effects were not uniform on pink salmon runs, he said.

“Some stocks did outstanding, and some stocks right next door did very poorly. A lot did average,” Piston said. “So part of the problem is that we don’t know exactly where in the ocean individual stocks are going for the most part.”

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