April 25 2018
(Oregon Coast) – It's been a weird year for weather in Portland and along the Oregon coast, and the beaches have seem plenty of strange sights. As parts of Oregon clock in with the wettest winter on record, scientists are saying a big element in all this – the Blob - may have finally packed up and gone. (Photo above by Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium: the blob may have helped chase the food source for Humpback whales close to Cannon Beach this year, resulting in numberous close-in sightings).
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Portland released some startling stats for Oregon's winter, saying Portland has had the wettest winter ever. Astoria rainfall amounts (40 inches) apparently came in as 20th highest since records have been kept, although residents of other parts of the north coast might disagree with that. Tillamook County received some of the worst flooding in decades in December.
The NWS counted December, January and February as the winter, so not all of winter's stats are in yet.
Portland also had the hottest summer on record, and much of the Oregon coast came close to that record as well – much of it blamed on The Blob.
Scientists at NASA and NOAA believe the infamous "Blob" in the Pacific Ocean may have met its end. The somewhat mysterious area of warmer water – which often lingered off the Oregon and Washington coasts – is thought to have been a part of all sorts of anomalies, including weather changes and what kinds of creatures washed up along this coastline.
The end of the Blob was heralded in mid-December by Clifford Mass, a University of Washington atmospheric scientist. Since then, this declaration has been backed up by data from U.S. Navy's WindSAT instrument on the Coriolis satellite and the AMSR2 instrument on Japan's GCOM-W satellite. The maps created from these two show significant differences in the the Pacific ocean's temps between July of 2015 and then January of this year.
The Blob, along with the effects of El Nino, seemed to affect marine life throughout the food chain in a wide area of the Earth, from Russia to Alaska to the western U.S.
Microscopic phytoplankton do better in colder waters, and these populations were chased out of various areas by a lack of upwelling because the Blob brought higher surface temperatures. As phytoplankton were moved or died off, other populations of fish and invertebrates were affected.
More sea lion strandings in California are attributed to this.
2015 was a banner year for head-scratching anomalies along Oregon beaches, including a highly unusual number of sea cucumber sightings – still happening today. Many beach experts in Oregon said they normally see just a handful of these a year, even though they live just under the sand. But there have been lots of them, according to Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium.
Hordes of Humpback whales made startling appearances along much of the north Oregon coast, much higher than usual, as they chased baitfish around Cannon Beach and up the Columbia River. The larger-than-usual numbers of baitfish are attributed to the Blob chasing their food sources this direction.
Another big puzzler was a relative of the jellyfish-like creature that showed up in mid summer that made the waves purple, in various areas and at different times. Scientists along the Oregon coast had never seen this before and it took some time to figure out what it was. They still don't know why these Doliolids (as they're called) were so purple.
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