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Is 'The Blob' Causing The Northwest Heatwave?

Changes in average water temperature and rain rate during winter 2013-2014.

Changes in average water temperature and rain rate during winter 2013-2014.


Since the fall of 2013, an unusually warm patch of water has been noticed in the Pacific Ocean. Scientists have taken to calling the abnormality “The Blob.” And they have a lot of questions about what is causing it, and what effect it’s having on our region.

So far, a lot of those questions haven’t been conclusively answered. But a new effort by Oregon State University and the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute hopes to nail down more information.

Here are seven interesting things we learned about “The Blob” from Phil Mote, Director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute when he joined Dave Miller on Think Out Loud.

1.) The Blob is about the same size as Alaska, and 100 meters deep.

2.) The water in The Blob is about five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than historical averages.

3.) Scientists theorize that part of what is causing The Blob is a ridge of high pressure in the atmosphere. That pressure is suppressing cloud formation and slowing winds, which causes the water in The Blob to absorb more heat from the sun.

4.) The Blob appears to have some effect on marine life. Warm-water creatures — like skipjack tuna and thresher sharks — have been appearing in typically-colder zones near British Columbia and Alaska.

5.) The Blob may also be affecting the climate on land in the Northwest, making things warmer and drier than usual. This is one of the questions that Mote is trying to answer.

6.) Scientists typically rely on controls to run experiments, but there are no spare Earths to use as a control. Instead, Mote’s team will be using computers to create “alternative Earths” to simulate different climate environments.

7.) Researchers cannot afford a super-computer to run the simulation thousands of times, so they are relying on volunteers to donate their computers’ processing power. They will use software that is able to crunch the data on volunteers’ computers while they’re not in use. You can donate your computer’s power, or just follow along, at their website.

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