NASA confirms the Pacific 'warm blob' has disappeared

We’ve been tracking the “blob” on WUWT almost since its inception thanks to the hard work of Bob Tisdale. In his most recent entry on it, Bob asked: THE BLOB Seems to Be Disappearing at the Surface – But Will It Reemerge?

The answer seems to be ‘no’.

From NASA Earth Observatory: The Demise of the Warm Blob – Image of the Day


Imagery acquired July 1 – 31, 2015


Imagery acquired January 1 – 31, 2016


In the winter of 2013-14, an unusually strong and persistent ridge of atmospheric high pressure emerged in weather maps of the northeastern Pacific Ocean. The feature, which was so unrelenting that meteorologists took to calling it the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, weakened winds in the area enough that the normal wind-driven churning of the sea eased. Those winds usually promote upwelling, which brings deep, cool water up toward the surface; instead, the resilient ridge shut down the ocean circulation, leaving a large lens of unusually warm surface water in the northeastern Pacific.

At times, this patch of warm water seeped into the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, and the coastal waters off Washington, Oregon, and California. In fact, many parts of the northeastern Pacific experienced the greatest sea surface temperature anomalies in the historical record. Scientists and journalists took to calling the patch of warm water “the Blob.” Nicholas Bond, a University of Washington meteorologist and the Washington state’s climatologist, coined the term in a June 2014 newsletter.

As unusually warm surface water sloshed around for months, the grim consequences began to ricochet through the marine food web. Microscopic phytoplankton thrive in cool waters, so the lack of upwelling water meant surface waters became increasingly starved of nutrients. With fewer phytoplankton, fish and other marine life began to suffer. Certain types of fish started avoiding the region altogether, and by 2015 record numbers of starving sea lions and fur seals were found stranded on California’s beaches. Meanwhile, the warm water also began to produce some strange weather in the western United States.

Thanks in part to the strong El Niño in the equatorial Pacific, the Blob has finally broken up. Beginning in November 2015, strong winds blowing south from Alaska began to pick up, and sea surface temperatures in the northeastern Pacific began to cool.

Data collected by the U.S. Navy’s WindSAT instrument on the Coriolis satellite and the AMSR2 instrument on Japan’s GCOM-W satellite bear this out. The maps above show sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific in July 2015 (top) and January 2016 (bottom). The maps do not depict absolute temperatures; instead, they show how much above (red) or below (blue) water temperatures were compared to the average from 2003 to 2012. The maps were built with data from the Microwave Optimally Interpolated SST product, a NASA-supported effort at Remote Sensing Systems.

In July 2015, temperatures were unusually warm across a large swath from the Gulf of Alaska to the California coast. By January 2016, more seasonable temperatures had returned. The development came as no surprise to weather watchers. In September 2015, Clifford Mass, a University of Washington atmospheric scientist, explained in his blog that El Niño generally brings lower-than-normal sea surface pressures to the eastern Pacific—the opposite of the systems that sustained the blob. By mid-December 2015, Mass declared that the blob was dead.

Remnants of the warm water patch still persist. “There are significant temperature anomalies extending down to a depth of about 300 meters. So while the weather patterns the past few months have not been that favorable to warming, it will take a while for all of the accumulated heat to go away,” explained Bond. That means impacts on marine life and on weather in the Pacific Northwest could linger, though Bond does not think the blob will return in the near term.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using microwave and infrared multi-sensor SST data from Remote Sensing Systems. Caption by Adam Voiland.

Terra – MODIS

92 thoughts on “NASA confirms the Pacific 'warm blob' has disappeared

  1. Since the development of “the blob” last year, I have been monitoring the SST anomalies in the Gulf of Alaska and the weather here in Southcentral Alaska. There does appear to be a relationship. While this winter has been warm, with little snowfall, it is not as warm as in 2015.

    • I think that the loss of the Blob has much to do with the above average rainfall through out the Pacific Northwest. Basically, the change allowed for storms to track eastward into California, Oregon, and Washington, instead of looping northward into Canada. I made a comment in Sept of 2014 that was based on the Blob dissipating beginning in July 2015. In that comment I forecast a normal rain for the winter of 2015/16, as well as decent spring rain for 2015. I was correct on both counts. The last part of the forecast is for a flood event on the PNW for the winter of 2016/17. That remains to be seen if that will occur.

  2. Since they were probably blaming the blob on global warming, they will complain about blob destruction and blame it on global warming too, I would imagine.

  3. The Blod and El Nino explain why NASA\NOAA went with land only temps for their claims this year, an attempt to separate those events from land based temps.

    • I’m just hazarding a guess here since I’ve only been following the oceanographic heat anomalies for the last five years, but I think that the North Pacific heat anomaly moved into Nino 3.4 region, artificially inflating the anomaly there, which explains why it was the only region to exceed the 97/98 El Nino and also why the associated West Pacific cold anomalies that are associated with El Nino didn’t form at all this year.
      The El Nino was, minus the “blob” probably mild, but the “blob” moved into the El Nino monitoring regions and joined the equatorial oscillation.

  4. The blob was a really interesting coupling of the atmosphere and the oceans, in a way that climate models wither do not do at all or cannot do well. And an object lesson on why a flobal average temperature is meaningless for regional adaptation.

      • Every climatic and meteorological phenomenon which naturally comes and goes offers Warmunistas hope that this time it’s different.

  5. So, if the temperature differential north and south of the jet stream has eased, when will the locked system, currently , change.

  6. It will be interesting to see if, not only will the blob disappear, but will vertical ocean currents in the region speed up relative to average, much like what happens in the tropical Pacific after an El Nino decays into a La Nina. The vertical mixing has already been observed to slow down, causing the blob, now will we see the opposite.
    Regardless of whether it does this or not, we will likely see the PDO flip back negative as the northeast Pacific and tropical Pacific cool this year. The alarmists had better hurry to ram their propaganda through the media, they don’t have long until the data are even more inconvenient for “the cause.”

  7. Question, does most of that warm water radiate into the atmosphere, and then out to space? Or did the blob disappear because the warm water dispersed in the ocean? I think I asked this before somewhere and still don’t quite understand it. My impression is that sunlight warming the ocean is what really keeps Earth’s temps relatively stable overall, and a (???) a quiet sun contributes less to ocean warmth than an active sun, hence cold periods when the sun is quiet. Is that too simplistic?

    • It could be due to both a release of heat, and a mixing of cooler waters with the warm Blob. I have watched the changes to the region for several years. When the cooler flows of water moving from west to east entered onto the scene, I had initially expected to see the Blob fade away early last year. As the months passed, it became more apparent that mixing was slowing the cooling waters from rapidly overwhelming the warmth in the region. I credit the cooler eastward moving flows with bringing the rain back to the PNW. They did make inroads into the Blob that allowed for storms to move inland instead of being shunted northward into Canada. There is also a solar component which i believe is part of the story. Hopefully, I will have something more to say about that in the next several months.

  8. The Blob may have disappeared at the surface, but it created a lot of warmer-than-normal subsurface waters. I’ve seen no evidence that the warmer-than-normal subsurface waters have dissipated.

    • Presumably those warmer-than-normal subsurface waters will remain warmer-than-normal until they eventually emerge? Can we know or guess where and when that will be?

    • Bob: wouldn’t the subsurface waters have to come to the surface to dissipate? If so wouldn’t the blob reoccur? Just asking- love your stuff!

      • honest question: how does warmer (i.e. less dense) water stay subsurface? Or perhaps better stated: how long before less dense warmer water surfaces?

      • I do not believe it to be warmer, just relatively warmer then the normal for that depth. As such it is still cooler then the surface until it gets there, where it is most easily warmed via the Sun. The persistent high pressure allowed a great deal more insolation to actually cause the blob. As stated, higher winds bring more cooler water to the surface (although relatively warmer then average for the depth they came from) This overturning still cools the surface, and the surface does not warm as rapidly with more winds and less insolation as the jet stream (no longer inhibited by high pressure) can bring in weather systems.
        I think this is correct?

    • Bob –
      Just wondering… is there any possibility that the heat in the Blob is related to that whole area being a continental subduction zone?
      Thanks or another interesting article.

    • Thats because BC went watermelon green. Blobs know these things according to warmunist logic. They only punish the unrepetant deniers. Oh wait, did you say Seatlle and Portland gompunished by the Blob? My faith is shaken. No sarc tag ought be necessary.

      • Dear Ristvan,
        I used to think you should lay a bear trap for the S.O.B. who sneaks in periodically to randomize your keyboard. But then I realized I would sincerely miss the joy I get from your linguistic inventions. “Gompunished” is definitely going into my spellcheck dictionary.

    • @ Steverino Feb 16, 12:30 pm, “is there a British Columbia? Nope, and for that matter looking at weather maps generated on most US news reports the world stops at the 49th parallel. unless some dastardly “Alberta Clipper” or an “East Coast “North Easter” causes 1 inch of snow in Washington.

  9. The cult of CAGW could keep their gig going as long as the planet warmed slightly or at least did cool.
    Abrupt cooling, in your face regional cooling will require a formal scientific response. If I understand the mechanisms and what is currently happening to the sun, the magnitude and rapidity of the cooling will be sufficient to illicit public panic.
    The region of the earth that is most strongly affect by the solar cycle interruption is the ocean surface, 40 to 60 degree latitude.
    In addition the ending of coronal holes solar wind bursts will end the El Nino events, so there will be some cooling in the tropics also.
    Based on ocean sediment proxy data there are regions in the North Atlantic that were as much as 10C colder than present.
    The reason for the regional cooling is due to the orientation of the geomagnetic field such that the most amount of atmospheric ion change due to increasing GCR (GCR is the silly name for high speed mostly cosmic protons that strike the earth’s atmosphere causing cloud forming ions.) occurs in the 40 to 60 degree region, both hemispheres.
    The extreme cooling of regions of the ocean is due to the increase in speed of the jet stream and hence ocean surface winds. The increase in wind speed over the ocean causes increased evaporation cooling. The increase in jet stream speed due to the solar cycle change is strongest in the Northern hemisphere due to positioning of the continents (distant between continents) which magnifies the mechanism that causes the increase jet stream speed.
    The solar wind bursts create a space charge differential in the ionosphere which causes there to be a voltage potential difference of the 40 to 60 degree region and the equator. There are a series of paper outline the theory and papers that not there was a reduction of cloud cover in that regions that correlates with planetary warming. There was also a paper published that shows planetary temperature closely correlates solar wind bursts (the number and timing between solar wind bursts is important as a large number of solar wind bursts has a larger effect on climate and than few but very large solar wind bursts.)
    The difference in potential due to the solar wind burst causes there to be current flow between the two different regions which affects cloud properties in both locations. Even though the solar cycle has been the weakest in the last 200 years based on sunspot count, there has been in the last 6 years the sudden appearance of weird, anomalous coronal holes on the surface of the sun (abnormally large and an abnormally large number of coronal holes). The coronal holes are the most important source of solar wind bursts. Very recently the coronal holes have started to dissipate and/or move to the solar pole where they no longer affect the earth’s climate.
    The cooling will be more rapid as the coronal hole solar wind bursts was causing warming and the El Nino event. The warm blob is due to a multi solar cycle affect that is directly related to the physical reason why the intensity of the earth’s magnetic field dropped 10% in the last two decades.

    • Tisdale, Astley.
      For comment, or correction as you two see fit.
      Based on that graphic above, the northern sea ice anomaly may go down then, since last spring’s “warm blob” south of the Oskotch Sea off Kamchatka was unusually low in sea ice extent at arctic sea ice maximum in March. Cooler water north and northeast of Japan should increase sea ice in those areas. Not happening yet, but something to think about if conventional sea ice theory is to be maintained.
      And remember too that conventional sea ice theory is not necessarily right either!
      Down south, Antarctic sea ice has been very low since last September – hovering since mid-September about 1.1 Mkm^2 lower than it was in during 2012, 2013, or 2014. Due to the warmer water flowing down from Australia, or not related to the El Nino at all?

      • RAC78 – do not forget that the cooler water also has a change in salinity.
        And the Russians are measuring it currently. From 2012
        Drastic cooling all over the Northern Hemisphere. The thing is that according to their calculations, “a great salinity anomaly” is coming, which will cause the fall of average temperature and bring about frosty winters in the coming years. The oceanologist and doctor of physical and mathematical sciences Nikolai Diansky has for years compared data about change of salinity of waters of the Arctic regions with weather changes on the planet. He took reference data from his colleagues in every corner of the globe. The scientist’s diagram prove that the global warming leads to massive melting of glaciers and increase in spillover of the Siberian rivers. As a result the Arctic Ocean has collected a lot of fresh water, which is will soon start pouring out through the Canadian and Greenland straits to the Northern Atlantic.This is where Gulf Stream, the main “bed warmer” of Europe flows. Its warm salty water is going to be covered with cold fresh water. Thus, the heat will not be let out and thus the climate in Europe and entire Northern hemisphere is going to cool down. – See more at:
        Same situation as the 1970’s “Great Salinity Anomaly”.

  10. I think I have found the missing heat blob, it is over Denver this week. We should hit 70 at least once between this week and next…

  11. Basic climatology: our vast oceans store heat, the atmosphere releases it through convection transport in the lower troposphere. And then release it at the tropopause for radiation to space.
    The blob dissipated by colder water mixing and convection transport. The PDO index has been in an excursion to positive values the past few years. The 7 year moving average shows the PDO is very much in its negative phase though. Reversion to mean, in stastical speak, is coming. La Nina is coming. Solar cycle minimas are coming.

  12. hello British Columbia here. We have had a very mild winter over most of the province this year. Suzuki though, he lives in BC, still bailed out to Australia on a paid, expense deductible excursion to save the world for a fee.

    • Hi nc @ 1:40 pm, does this mean the fishing for salmon of the north end of Van Island is going to be good this august? ( Not Suzuki related but blob related).

  13. Here is hoping Mr Watts lawn will now get some free watering from above a bit more regularly. If this ends the drought in California over the next 2-5 years that will be a very good thing.

  14. Trenberth is preparing to assert that the blob has merely went into hiding in the deep ocean.
    This he knows for sure.
    I wonder if piece or this old graph on page 2773 in a 1997 Trenberth paper on El Nino is meaningful?
    Figure 1 shows the 5-month running mean SST
    time series for the Niño 3 and 3.4 regions relative to a
    base period climatology of 1950–79 given in Table 1.
    The base period can make a difference. This standard
    30-year base period is chosen as it is representative of
    the record this century, whereas the period after 1979
    has been biased warm and dominated by El Niño
    events (Trenberth and Hoar 1996a).

  15. I had the privilege of studying climatology under Dr. Guzman-Rivas at UC Boulder in the 60’s (before it became a political den of “sustainability”. He described Latitudes 40-60 degrees as the “battlegrounds of the atmosphere”. Nothing has changed.

  16. I surf on the Washington coast. Like last winter, this winter the water is warm enough that I often don’t have to wear gloves. My threshold of pain is about 50degF, depending a bit on air temperature. So far the water has been a balmy 49-51degF all winter. About 4 years ago the water got down to an ice-cream-headache-inducing 42degF.
    Looking the maps, the anomaly appears to be unchanged from the two graphs immediately near the coast.

  17. “In the winter of 2013-14, an unusually strong and persistent ridge of atmospheric high pressure emerged in weather maps of the northeastern Pacific Ocean. The feature, which was so unrelenting that meteorologists took to calling it the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge,”
    Ridiculously Resilient Ridge? This is a ridiculously resilient ridge:
    A massive 19th-century storm on the Pacific coast of the US opened up a 300-mile-long sea that stretched through much of the central part of California. And it looks like the state is due for another mega flood.

    • California came right to the edge of that very same event in the winter of 1996/97. It rained for around 31 days and nights. During that period there was always some level of rain falling. Lakes were starting to form in the valley, mainly north of Sacramento. The greatest danger at that point in time was that the dam on the Feather River drainage system was in danger of over topping. That is one of the largest earthen dams in the world..
      If the Oroville dam gave way, then it would have flooded the entire region all the way up to and through the San Francisco Bay Area. Sacramento, the capitol, would have been severely impacted as well, perhaps almost wiped out. Every little stream of water anywhere had turned into a raging torrent.

  18. Let’s see…
    1) The Blob is dead.
    2) The PDO 30-yr warm cycle died in 2008 and is now in its 30-year cool cycle.
    3) The 2014/15 Super El Niño is dying.
    4) The rapid Sea Level Rise myth is dead. (Stuck at 6″ per century for past 215 years).
    5) The rapid Antarctic land ice loss myth is dead. (NASA Niw says increasing at 100 billion tons/yr)
    6) Arctic Ice extents have been recovering since 2007.
    7) Antarctic ice extents have been growing for the past 35 years.
    8) IPCC admits no global severe weather intensity trends for the past 50~100 years.
    9) No significant global warming trend in 20 years (despite 30% of all manmade CO2 emissions since 1750 being made over just the last 20 years.
    10) CO2 fertilization has increased crop yields and forest growth 25% since 1850.
    11) ocean pH stuck at 8.1.
    12) the current solar cycle is weakest at this stage in 200 years.
    13) the next solar cycle is expected to be the weakest since the Dalton Minimum (1790~1820)
    14)the solar cycle starting from 2033 is expected to be the start of another Grand Solar Minimum that could last 50~100 years.
    15) the AMO starts its 30-yr cool cycle from around 2020.
    The disparity between CAGW projections vs. reality (RSS/UAH/Radiosonde data) currently exceeds 2+ standard deviations for a duration of around 20 years, which is already sufficient criteria to disconfirm the CAGW hypothesis…
    In 5 years, the disparity will likely exceed 3 SDs for 25 years, which becomes absolutely laughable.
    CAGW is dead…

    • 16. UAH/RSS temperatures are the highest recorded for January.
      17. Sea ice extent is the lowest ever recorded. There has been no recovery in Arctic sea ice extent. .
      CAGW might be questionable. AGW is looking more and more certain. Much of the talk on anti-AGW blogs has, for at least 10 year to my knowledge, been about imminent global cooling. It’s not happening. We’re continuing to warm – slowly perhaps – but warming nonetheless.

  19. The story of The Blog illustrates why the “fruit salad” metric — Land and Sea Surface Temperature (LSST — and its various versions and indexes) — are not useful as measures of anthropocentric global climate change or warming. The Blob (like El Niño and La Niña) caused an out-sized effect on LSST but is not caused by anything directly related to increased energy retention of the atmosphere or ocean due to increased GHG concentrations.
    Mixing two different physical characteristics of the Earth’s climate that are not subject to changes by the same causes thus creates a metric that changes for reasons primarily unrelated to one another.
    Both systems (atmosphere and ocean) are primarily ruled by complex fluid dynamics — with solar energy (and the increase in retention caused by GHGs) being only one of the inputs into those systems.

  20. Its interesting that when people think about climate change they only think about “oh it’s getting warmer/colder outside, when in fact it plays a much larger role than people know about. like in this article the ocean is absorbing the heat it cant put back into the atmosphere which directly affects the marine life living there due certain organism needing a specific temperature to thrive. By animals migrating and dying off that directly affects business and calls for an increase of specific seafood.

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