'The Blob' overshadows El Niño

Research identifies earlier ocean warming as dominant effect off West Coast

'The Blob' and El Niño are on their way out, leaving a disrupted marine ecosystem behind. CREDIT Michael Jacox

‘The Blob’ and El Niño are on their way out, leaving a disrupted marine ecosystem behind. CREDIT Michael Jacox


El Niño exerted powerful effects around the globe in the last year, eroding California beaches; driving drought in northern South America, Africa and Asia; and bringing record rain to the U.S. Pacific Northwest and southern South America. In the Pacific Ocean off the West Coast, however, the California Current Ecosystem was already unsettled by an unusual pattern of warming popularly known as “The Blob.”

New research based on ocean models and near real-time data from autonomous gliders indicates that the “The Blob” and El Niño together strongly depressed productivity off the West Coast, with The Blob driving most of the impact.

The research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters by scientists from NOAA Fisheries, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and University of California, Santa Cruz is among the first to assess the marine effects of the 2015-2016 El Niño off the West Coast of the United States.

“Last year there was a lot of speculation about the consequences of ‘The Blob’ and El Niño battling it out off the U.S. West Coast,” said lead author Michael Jacox, of UC Santa Cruz and NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center. “We found that off California El Niño turned out to be much weaker than expected, The Blob continued to be a dominant force, and the two of them together had strongly negative impacts on marine productivity.”

“Now, both The Blob and El Niño are on their way out, but in their wake lies a heavily disrupted ecosystem,” Jacox said.

Unusually warm ocean temperatures that took on the name, The Blob, began affecting waters off the West Coast in late 2013. Warm conditions – whether driven by the Blob or El Niño – slow the flow of nutrients from the deep ocean, reducing the productivity of coastal ecosystems. Temperatures close to 3 degrees C (5 degrees F) above average also led to sightings of warm-water species far to the north of their typical range and likely contributed to the largest harmful algal bloom ever recorded on the West Coast last year.

“These past years have been extremely unusual off the California coast, with humpback whales closer to shore, pelagic red crabs washing up on the beaches of central California, and sportfish in higher numbers in southern California,” said Elliott Hazen of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, a coauthor of the paper. “This paper reveals how broad scale warming influences the biology directly off our shores.”

The research paper describes real-time monitoring of the California Current Ecosystem with the latest technology, including autonomous gliders that track undersea conditions along the West Coast. “This work reflects technological advances that now let us rapidly assess the effects of major climate disruptions and project their impacts on the ecosystem,” Jacox said.

Separate but related research recently published in Scientific Reports identifies the optimal conditions for productivity in the California Current off the West Coast, which will help assess the future effects of climate change or climate variability such as El Niño. The research was authored by the same scientists at UC Santa Cruz and NOAA Fisheries.

“Wind has a ‘goldilocks effect’ on productivity in the California Current,” Hazen said. “If wind is too weak, nutrients limit productivity, and if wind is too strong, productivity is moved offshore or lost to the deep ocean. Understanding how wind and nutrients drive productivity provides context for events like the Blob and El Niño, so we can better understand how the ecosystem is likely to respond.”

Both papers emphasize the importance of closely monitoring West Coast marine ecosystems for the impacts of a changing climate. Although the tropical signals of El Niño were strong, the drivers – called “teleconnections” – that usually carry the El Niño pattern from the tropics to the West Coast were not as effective as in previous strong El Niños.

“Not all El Niños evolve in the same way in the tropics, nor are their impacts the same off our coast,” said Steven Bograd, a research scientist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and coauthor of both papers. “Local conditions, in this case from the Blob, can modulate the way our ecosystem responds to these large scale climate events.”



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So if I read this right, El Nino did not flow down the west coast of N. A. with the expected/usual strength, instead it pumped more warm water into the Blob – (which means they reinforced each other, they did not “fight it out”). All of this begs the question: What is it about the blob that stopped the El Nino flow? Or – a more logical question to my mind – Is the existence of the Blob due to blocking mechanism that has also reduced the El Nino effect?


It means the blob is funded by Big Oil

Olaf Koenders

It’s Gore’s electricity bill..

From what I could see from watching the daily changes is that some portion of the Blob is warmer waters moving eastward from Japan, that then settle in the Gulf of Alaska. Once in the Gulf of Alaska the water can stay there depending on wind conditions for quite some time. So it is like a collection spot. The waters in that region can then heat further as the currents rotate in that nook of the continent.

Horace Jason Oxboggle

The Blob is fascinated by the large area of floating plastic, and had to go look for him/herself!


Hmmm. There will now be ‘research’ indicating that ‘the blob’ is a new phenomenon caused by ‘man-made’ AND ONLY ‘man-made’ climate change.

Tom O

Of course, the location of the El Niño doesn’t factor into it, it would seem, since this one was located further west than most. Could it be that what they really are trying to do here is downplay the climate impact of an El Niño event as opposed to pump up “the Blob” so as to keep CO2 on the front burner as THE climate impactor?


“The Blob, began affecting waters off the West Coast in late 2013”
The blob appears to have begun to gather immediately following the very negative AO/NAO in March 2013 which had the jet stream around 1000 miles south of normal. There would have been similar blocking set up in the years 1876-78, early in the last solar minimum, with cold U.S. winter conditions (1876-77), but a wet and mild stormy flow to the UK, like in Jan-Feb 2014.

David A

Yes, long persistent high pressure (the RRR-ridiculously resiliant ridge) to some degree allowed steady cloudless solar insolation to create additional warmth, (additional to and also somewhat related to ocean current movements) in the area known as the blob.

‘Strongly negative impacts on marine productivity’. NOAA/PMEL produces an annual report on the California Current region for the Pacific Fisheries Management Council. Among other things, the Council uses the report for commercial fishing quotas. I just read the 2016 report. There were negatives for some species (salmon), not most others. Almost no strong negatives (stuff outside the ‘normal’ variation. The Blob timing is in green, and each indicator contains a normal variation band. So the PR wording is provably biased toward ‘warming castrophe’. Charitably, a gross exaggeration of the ground truth.


“Strongly negative impacts on marine productivity.”
This is supposed to mean “fewer fish.” A bad case of academorrhea, there.

“Strongly negative impacts on marine productivity.”
I think that means: “We didn’t get the grants we wanted. Send money before it is too late.”

The salmon/steelhead decline started back in the mid 1970s, and grew worse year by year.


it goes beyond commercial fishing. In the Pacific Northwest, the herring moved further offshore, the whales and other wildlife followed the food. Locally, probably the most obvious thing was the sudden death of all the seastars supposedly due to a mysterious virus – maybe a virus that was supported by the warmer waters of the blob?!. Now, with the blob gone, the seastars are fast and furiously returning…. And the air is nippier this summer than it has been for the last few years.
So I think the blob did have a much bigger impact than El Nino – it rained less than it should have in an El Nino year, the fish all moved away, some couldnt’ or didn’t and suffered, and now that the blob is gone (or nearly gone) its all going back to ‘normal.’
But. It is depressing to think what is probably a natural phenomenon and like many natural phenomenon, not necessarily one that occurs every year, the short sighted climate activists will no doubt blame all that happened in the last 2 years on some man-induced manic El Nino causing the blob, and utterly ignore that with the blob and El Nino fast retreating into the mists of time, the ecosystem is (and I quell in fake horror here) RECOVERING – or moving back to its former grounds. Climate actvisits never ever give any credit to ecosystems for adapting..

Thankfully, this summer is finally a normal/average to below average summer for temps. I have lived without air conditioning for the last 5 years. Notice the moisture starting to move down the coastline. This may even bring some rain later on this week…https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/overlay=total_cloud_water/orthographic=-107.15,42.03,819


Sorry – I’m a gardener. I prefer warm summers over cool summers. My tomatoes won’t be ready until late August this year.

@ noaaprogrammer …I started my tomatoes early with the aid of a portable greenhouse. I am about 1 week away from picking the first ones. Around here in Trinity Co, an average summer temp means high 80s to low 90s, which is a big relief from high 90s to over 100F.


Once again they leave out the positives:
“The epic 2015 fishing season has come to a close and Southern California anglers are now looking forward to reeling in more fish in 2016. A warm water blob off the Southern California coast (courtesy of El Niño) meant warm offshore waters deep into the year – and plenty of exotic fish to be had….”

Humpback whales flooding into Monterey Bay, blue whales that haven’t been recorded in a century finding great conditions to live off Los Angeles, great white sharks jumping out of the water among surfers all along the SoCal coast.
And what this means is, they have food, which requires richness of food stock down to microscopic organisms. The theory of dying oceans is utterly refuted in California. As a Monterey Bay Aquarium scientist recently said, “The proliferation of large marine mammals in the bay over the past decade is amazing. Twenty years ago, no one predicted this.”
It IS amazing. If this is due to manmade CO2 emissions, nourishing plant growth (the foundation of the food chain) let’s keep it up. It strongly appears, as well, that higher wealth creation due to fossil fuels gives us the luxury to protect whales, pinnipeds, et al. The proof is in Monterey Bay.
Also, Thank You Julie Packard, for using your capitalist father’s fortune to build a superb marine museum and research center. And thank you for telling everyone that without free enterprise capitalism, you could have achieved little more than build a 20 gallon aquarium in your apartment.

Whale watchers have told me that 20 years ago any sighting of a humpback whale was unusual and exciting. Here in Pacifica, north of Monterrey and south of SF has been the best whale watching ever. People state they are seeing more whales here than on cruises to Alaska. Indeed the currents have likely pushed their food closer to shore but that still does not account for the increased humpback populations. Although surveys for different regions may vary a good rule of thumb is humpbacks have been increasing by the incredible amount of 12% a year.


Not shooting them with harpoons is likely the most (man-caused) effect increasing the number of whales seen. So-Cal was a whaling center in the past and given a chance biology will re-populate their numbers. A bit of warm or cool water here or there “causing” the increase is a stretch.


Before the canneries were built on Cannery Row, Monterey Bay was a whaling station. With the advent of available fossil fuels, whaling became obsolete and the ocean economy turned to tuna and sardine fisheries, hence the canneries. When the sardine fisheries failed in the 30’s, probably due to their own blob like conditions at the time, the canneries closed. Since there is very little commercial fishing in the Monterey Bay left at all, the commercial pressure on all stocks is down and we see the general increase.
That doesn’t mean that specific ocean events don’t re-occur periodically to affect that.

Chris Riley

Julie Packard has made an enormous contribution to the Monterey Bay area. I just wish she would end her war against Phil’s Fish Market, one of the best seafood restaurants in the world !


From Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
It’s alive! ‘The blob’ lingers at new depth, scientists say
Marine ecosystems still at risk as ‘the blob’ sinks deeper below the surface, says DFO

Pamela Gray

And therein lies the confounding factor. Oceanic heat absorbed from the Sun can spread out, pool up, dive, and rise to the surface in small, medium, large, and huge amounts. Without any changes in solar input, oceanic heat, and thus the opportunity to evaporate it to land, can warm us up or cool us down when it stays in the oceans. Something as complicated and massive as that system can easily have short, long, and millennial length oscillations. I hope to see the day when El Nino/La Nina and other ocean oscillations are NO LONGER considered to be short-term self-cancelling events that can be dismissed from models.
To hit the nail on the head, remember when it was drummed into us that CO2 was well mixed in the atmosphere? Oops.


tony mcleod

The days I didn’t hope to see are happening over the next 5 as Siberia and Northern Canada simultaneously experience very rare heat waves. Have you no doubt at all of the negligible human influence?

Hi Pamela.
The Nino3.4 area Sea Surface Temperature (SST) appears to be a good leading proxy for global temperature, as evidenced by this plot.
Nino3.4SST leads UAHLT (Global Lower Tropospheric temperature, as measured by UAH) by about 4 months.
The cooling impact of the two major volcanoes is apparent for about five years after the eruptions of El Chichon in 1982 and Mt. Pinatubo 1991:
Replotting for the period after the influence of these two major volcanoes had abated:
My formula is: UAHLT Calc. = 0.20*Nino3.4SST +0.15
Nino3.4 is the temperature anomaly in degrees C of the SST in the Nino3.4 area, as measured by NOAA in month m. Nino3.4 comprises about 1% of the Earth’s surface area.
UAHLT is the Lower Tropospheric temperature anomaly of Earth in degrees C as measured by UAH in month (m plus 4);
Note that in both plots UAHLTCalc has been moved forward 4 months in time to show alignment – in reality it leads actual UAHLT by about 4 months.
The R2 for the two plots after 1Jan1996 is 0.55.
Note how well the two plots track each other in detail – it must be coincidence or spurious correlation – we KNOW that CO2 drives temperature. 🙂
A similar relationship has been published before.
See Nature, Vol.367, p.325, 27Jan1994 co-authored by John Christy and Richard McNider. They used the total Nino3+Nino4 areas and found a lag of 5 months vs my 4 months.
John sent me the paper and wrote:
“The tropical Pacific is very much a player in global temps. Attached is a paper we did in 1994 that used this fact.” An updated paper is in the works…
Best personal regards, Allan

Pamela Gray

Good work Allen. I know of this previous research and your graphs are spot on. This short term mechanism is straight forward and is entirely plausible. My thought experiment, and one based on the old “first encountered pathology” method of investigation tells me that the same mechanism has short, long, and millennial term oscillations that are based on a slow net recharge slope that results in cooler land temperatures, followed by a fast net discharge slope that results in warmer land temperatures, all with commensurate atmospheric teleconnections that serve to change trade winds and increase/decrease solar insolation at the surface, and working in concert with orbital mechanics-driven changes in solar insolation. Given the volume of the oceans and their capacity to store solar energy it is conceivable and I believe plausible. For those that shrink in fear that all this is human caused, Greenland continues to reveal frozen flora as glaciers recede. Carbon dating reveals just how old this flora is. Relax and enjoy the interstadial. The coming stadial is the one that kills and is the one that massive amounts of dollars should be used to plan for its eventual appearance. We can also leave a legacy to our children who will be instructed to pass this coming ice age information down to all future generations, to prepare to move to below the 45th parallel and learn how to be self-sufficient.

Pamela Gray

Oops. Comment responding to Allen didn’t appear and I don’t think I used any moderation worthy words.


Tony Mcleod, https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/07/06/the-blob-overshadows-el-nino/#comment-2253369
My brain is telling me something is wrong with the Climate Reanlyzer map. How many thermometers can there be in the Arctic? Even if measured by satellite, why are there hot blobs in northern Canada and Russia, where the Inuit communities are, and no extra heat out on the Arctic ice? Just wondering…

tony mcleod

It’s what heat waves in the Arctic looks like. The layer of surface air over land is going to heat up a lot quicker than over the near-by water. The two air masses are not connected, they just both – Siberian and northern Canada – happen to be experiencing heat waves at once.


How does “The Blob” confound normal physics like warmer water being less dense than cooler warmer ?
Is it sentient and attempting to avoid researchers?

Thank you Pamela for your comments.
I agree that warm is good and cold is bad – for humanity and the environment.
Even now, before the next Ice Age puts a mile of ice over most or all of Canada and Europe, the world is cooler than the optimum, not warmer. The evidence regarding humanity is as follows:
Excess Winter Mortality globally is about 2 million people per year, including about 100,000 per year in the USA and up to 50,000 per year in the United Kingdom. Excess Winter Mortality rates are high even in warm countries like Australia and Thailand.
Reference: “Cold Weather Kills 20 Times as Many People as Hot Weather” by Joseph D’Aleo and Allan MacRae, September 4, 2015
The global cooling period from ~1940 to 1975 (during a time of increasing atmospheric CO2) demonstrates that climate sensitivity to increased atmospheric CO2 is near-zero – so close to zero as to be insignificant. The scientific conclusion is that there is NO global warming crisis, except in the minds of warmist propagandists.
I recently received a letter from Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips (cc’d to our Minister of Energy and our Premier) wherein she speaks of the government’s plan to reduce “carbon pollution”. Yes, really – some people still talk like that.
There is overwhelming evidence that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and the oceans is not dangerously high – it is dangerously low, too low for the survival of life on Earth.
I have written about the vital issue of “CO2 starvation” since 2009 or earlier, and recently others including Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, have also written on this subject:
Executive Summary
This study looks at the positive environmental effects of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a topic which has been well established in the scientific literature but which is far too often ignored in the current discussions about climate change policy. All life is carbon based and the primary source of this carbon is the CO2 in the global atmosphere. As recently as 18,000 years ago, at the height of the most recent major glaciation, CO2 dipped to its lowest level in recorded history at 180 ppm, low enough to stunt plant growth.
This is only 30 ppm above a level that would result in the death of plants due to CO2 starvation. It is calculated that if the decline in CO2 levels were to continue at the same rate as it has over the past 140 million years, life on Earth would begin to die as soon as two million years from now and would slowly perish almost entirely as carbon continued to be lost to the deep ocean sediments. The combustion of fossil fuels for energy to power human civilization has reversed the downward trend in CO2 and promises to bring it back to levels that are likely to foster a considerable increase in the growth rate and biomass of plants, including food crops and trees. Human emissions of CO2 have restored a balance to the global carbon cycle, thereby ensuring the long-term continuation of life on Earth.
[end of Exec Summary]
Is it possible to scientifically educate someone like Alberta’s Environment Minister, our Energy Minister or our Premier? If so, how? Suggestions welcomed.
Regards, Allan


“The Blob” and El Niño together strongly depressed productivity……….
……..with humpback whales closer to shore, pelagic red crabs washing up on the beaches of central California, and sportfish in higher numbers in southern California,
All of which promptly starved to death….. /snark


Does this mean we can wade in the waters of over rated west coast beaches without wet suits or not?


“The Blob” is a micro-aggression against fat people. If triggered by it, please retreat to the nearest safe space, Tim Hortons donuts.


Remember, there are one million micro-agressions in one aggression. 🙂


OK….just what the heck is a “leading” author and scientist? Somebody self-absorbed in their in own importance? And we believe and trust these twits? No wonder we can’t figure out how water warms,which is what they are trying to tell us, by “scientific” means? Stupidity reigns supreme in so called “science”


I thought it meant that he (or she) is the lead author of a particular paper.
Perhaps, though, their tasked by CAGW Central to lead folks in the desired direction?


Spell, but not grammar, checker got me above:
replace “their” with “they’re”.

Steve Fraser

No paper here, this just an article with an interview with the guy…

California droughts caused mainly by changes in wind, not moisture

That should have been obvious for all to see. Much of the coastline is rainforest, because it sits on the edge of the Pacific. That means that a main cause for any drought would be winds not carrying the oceans moisture inland.

David A

Yes, long persistent high pressure (the RRR-ridiculously resiliant ridge) to some degree allowed steady cloudless solar insolation to create additional warmth, (additional to and also somewhat related to ocean current movements) in the area known as the blob.


Hazen said “If the wind is too weak ….. ” and “if the wind is too strong …. ”
Maybe “weaker than average” and “stronger than average” might have been more appropriate.
But I suppose normal wooly thinking and sloppy language for the warmanistas.

charles nelson

How about…just for once somebody coming right out and saying.
“We don’t have a CLUE about how the oceans really work…we’ve only got a few years of data to work with and although we imagine we can see patterns and relationships like the nino kids and the blob thingy…really we’re just guessing. Give us another hundred years….”
See, I could respect that position.

Here on the Northern California coast the ocean at the shoreline has become much colder and evidence of strong upwelling caused by offshore winds has appeared, driving large quantities of seaweed (bull kelp) onto the beaches. These measurements are by sight and feel, but since we go to the ocean every day we have a good feel for its changes. Now to see if instruments confirm what our bodies tell us.

We should be returning to the good old days of plentiful rainfall and heavy coastal fog, just like there was back in the 1950s through the mid 1970s.

As of my May 2016 sea surface temperature update, the sea surface temperature anomalies for NOAA’s “The Blob” region were still elevated:comment image
The full update is here:
I should be posting the June data early next week.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

In this figure, majority of points are between + 1.0 and – 1.0 degrees. Few points exceeded on either side during 1982 to 2016.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Scripps has backed off their previous month strong La Nina forecast. Here’s a comparison of their latest versus the previous month. Hope this displays half-decently on the blog. The URLs are
Forecast June July
MJJ 2016 -0.53 ===
JJA 2016 -1.10 ===
JAS 2016 -1.59 -1.09
ASO 2016 -1.93 -1.42
SON 2016 -2.14 -1.68
OND 2016 -2.25 -1.85
NDJ 16/17 -2.30 -1.90
DJF 16/17 -2.27 -1.85
JFM 2017 -2.11 -1.69
FMA 2017 === -1.46
MAM 2017 === -1.20


El Nino, The Blob– The heat comes from submarine sea mounts, volcanoes and ocean ridges cooking the ocean floor. The earth’s crust floats upon a planet of molten rock and every once in awhile, it bubbles over. So please don’t tell me there is not enough submarine heat to effect climate above the waves.


There isn’t.
Have you any idea of the amount of energy required to raise the temp of the ocean even 0.1C?
The mass of the oceans is 1000x greater than the atmosphere and the SH of water is 4x that of air so that energy would heat the atmosphere by 400C.
If it were the cause you would have ships sinking due to the convective overturning as it reached the surface from such enormous heat sources (unless miraculously the sea bed just happened to be evenly heated throughout. You know? like my underfloor heating in the bathroom.

tony mcleod

But aren’t those vent thingies quite warm?

Michael Carter

Sorry – wrong. There is direct evidence of heated water over the active volcanic chain running from New Zealand to Tonga. My view is that the possible influence of tectonics is dismissed too lightly


Can anyone explain to me how ‘The Blob’ is anything but a minor short-term deviation from average conditions, one of a myriad possibilities of ‘minor short-term deviation from average’??
Perhaps if the Blob were 50 times bigger and stronger you’d get the 100+ yr drought that would bring the Californian economy to its knees?

My guess FWIW is that the blob signifies a slowdown in the North Pacific gyre and poleward heat transport generally, possibly accompanying its Atlantic analog, a Gulf Stream slowdown. It happened before in the 50’s (ask Joe Bastardi). While temporarily raising global temperatures it presages a few decades of cooling, which will be manipulated into a noisy flatline.

There are number of warmer and cooler blobs all over the place
What is this fuss about?

To override WP cache, click on the image to get up-to-date view.

Nice discussion. El NIño is important, and no one really understands the phenomenon.

Michael Carter

Come on guys the the blob was a persistent anomaly in a static location situated slap-bang over a tectonic boundary. Someone needs to get off their backside and go out to take chemical samples
Diagnosis is about a process of elimination. Eliminate the obvious first. Any chemical trace (if any) will still be there

Michael Carter

One explanation for the equatorial cold anomaly is that the wind and marine currents that transfer heat to higher latitudes are now back in full operational mode. It will be interesting to see if the cold strip widens in coming months. If this trend continues 2016 may not be a temperature record. There are 6 months to go yet. The fact that this reversal occurred over only 3 months is pretty astonishing
The only situation I can think of that explains why these changes correlate to measured temperatures relates to cloud cover: there is less cloud insulation at higher latitudes allowing IR to dissipate more rapidly? It would be interesting to compare satellite data from above the upper cloud boundary to that below. Given that these redistribution currents only change the geographical location of heat, without any other factors involved mean temperature would remain the same
Mind bending stuff