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

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Snow expected to hit West Kootenay passes overnight on Thursday

Up to 15 cm of snow could fall on Highway 3 between Paulson summit to Kootenay Pass by Friday morning

Former Grand Forks fire chief suing city for wrongful dismissal

Dale Heriot was fired in July 2019 after his department was investigated for safety, bullying issues

Regional District of Kootenay Boundary seeks online feedback on transit, housing

Surveys on the RDKB’s website are asking for input to help plan for the future

School District 51 staff iron out plan for return to classrooms

Teachers are looking for a comprehensive health and safety plan to be in place before June 1

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Snowbirds jets will not be leaving Kamloops, just yet

The Snowbirds have been in Kamloops since May 17 when a plane crashed killing Capt. Jennifer Casey

COVID-19 checkpoints ‘up to them,’ Bonnie Henry says of remote B.C. villages

Support local tourism economy, but only if you’re invited in

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Eight people arrested in Victoria homeless camp after enforcement order issued

Those living in tents were given until May 20 to move indoors

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

Most Read