The Los Angeles Times reports: It’s called “the blob,” and some blame it for the thousands of dead seabirds and emaciated sea lion pups that have washed ashore on California beaches since late last year.
Ever since an unusually warm mass of seawater began spreading along the Pacific Coast of North America a year ago — wreaking havoc on the marine food chain — scientists have struggled to explain its presence.
In recent months, however, some experts have argued that this 500-mile-wide, 300-foot-deep wedge of warm seawater may in fact signal an epic cyclical change in the Pacific Ocean — a change that could possibly bring soaking rains to Southern California this winter but also accelerate the rise in global temperatures.
Though researchers disagree over just what this blob portends, the phenomenon is drawing intense scrutiny from climate scientists and oceanographers.
At the center of this debate is a poorly understood pattern of wind, ocean current and temperature variations that some scientists call the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO. [Continue reading…]