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

Editorial: Curbing urban sprawl a laudable goal

We did not agree with the motion put forward to put a moratorium on development.

Lake Flashback: Haiti relief pours in, political kerfuffle has deep roots, and BCFP acts quickly on PCP leak

We’ve also included a picture of Lake Cowichan Kinsmen rescuing the Duckpond dock

Chris Wilkinson column: Perspective matters now more than later

The point here is that priorities matter. All the time. Every month.

Flooding has closed several roads in Cowichan Valley

All the usual suspects are involved: overflowing ditches, low-lying spots, and huge piles of snow

PHOTOS: Winter Wonderland was a hit at Lake Cowichan

Check out the photos by Malcolm Chalmers

VIDEO: Rare ‘ice circle’ spotted on Kamloops river

An ice circle or ice pan, has formed in the chilly waters just east of the Yellowhead Bridge

Uber, Lyft approved for ride-hailing in Lower Mainland

Kater Technologies Inc.’s application was rejected

B.C. man rescued after getting trapped headfirst in well as water level rose

The rescue involved crews from Oak Bay and Saanich

Investigators in wildfire-torn Australia head to site of B.C. airtanker crash

The B.C. government sends condolences to Port Alberni-owned Coulson Aviation

RCMP investigating sexual allegation against Lower Mainland police officer

Delta officer suspended while the alleged off-duty incident involving a co-worker is investigated

Former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse in B.C. granted day parole

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s

VIDEO: Person in wheelchair narrowly avoids collision with car in Kelowna

There were no injuries in the scary looking near-accident last week in Rutland

Here’s what Canada is doing to stop the coronavirus from getting in

Health officials are monitoring multiple possible cases in Canada

Most Read