Record Algae Bloom Laced With Toxins is Flourishing in “The Blob” — and Spreading in the North Pacific

By Tom Yulsman | August 6, 2015 6:34 pm
algae

An animation of satellite images showing algae blooming in the waters around Vancouver Island on July 18, 2015. See below for a detailed explanation. (Images: NASA Worldview. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

It has been called “The Blob,” a gigantic patch of abnormally warm water sitting in the Northeast Pacific Ocean for months. And now, The Blob may have helped midwife a record-breaking bloom of algae stretching from Southern California all the way north to Alaska.

More about that warm water in a minute. But first, that giant algae bloom: It consists of tiny marine plants known as phytoplankton, and it is “laced with some toxic species that have had far-reaching consequences for sea life and regional and local economies,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Toxins from the algae are suspected to have contributed to the deaths of at least nine Fin whales near Kodiak Island, Alaska, in June, although a definitive cause has not yet been determined, NOAA says.  There have also been reports of dead and dying whales, gulls, and forage fish in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, possibly connected to the algae.

And over the past few months, according to NOAA:

. . . extremely high levels of an algal toxin called domoic acid, which is produced by a group of phytoplankton called Pseudo-nitzschia, have led to closures of recreational razor clam harvests in Oregon and Washington, as well as closing of large portions of the Washington state Dungeness crab fishery and some of the sardine and anchovy fisheries in California.

You can see evidence of part of the vast algae bloom in the animation above. It consists of satellite views of the waters surrounding Vancouver Island, and off the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

The colorful image consists of data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The yellow, orange and red colors are indicative of relatively high levels of chlorophyll in the water. Like all plants, phytoplankton use chlorophyll for photosynthesis, the process by which they use sunlight for their energy needs.

The other image shows the same scene but in natural color. I have fiddled with the contrast a little to make the greenish and brownish swirls of algae stand out.

algae

Average chlorophyll concentrations in milligrams per cubic meter of water for July 2015. The darkest green areas have the highest surface chlorophyll concentrations and the largest amounts of phytoplankton—including both toxic and harmless species. Vancouver Island is circled. (NOAA Climate.gov map based on Suomi NPP satellite data provided by NOAA View.)

The map above charts average chlorophyll concentrations during July in the northeast Pacific, from Baja to Alaska. Have a look at Vancouver Island, which I’ve circled. Some of the deepest greens, and therefore highest concentrations of chlorophyll, are found there.

But California, Oregon and Washington aren’t far behind!

The Blob

The abnormally warm water suspected as a culprit in the algae bloom doesn’t quite look blobbish right now — more like two giant patches:

algae

Okay, in the map above of sea surface temperature anomalies for today (Aug. 6, 2015), the warm patch off the west coast of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, does look blobby. The other one, off California and the Baja Peninsula, is more irregular. (There’s also quite a bit of toastiness in between the two.)

The warm water has shifted around a bit over the weeks, but it has been a persistent feature for a long time now. In fact, it began forming about two years ago. It also appears to have played a significant role in California’s record-setting drought.

You’ll also note that massive spear of warm water extending along the equator from South America across a good portion of the Pacific. That’s, El Niño — and it’s continuing to get stronger. It has, in fact, been called a “Godzilla El Niño…

SEE ALSO: As El Niño Gets Even Stronger, He’s Not Really Looking Like a Child Any Longer — More Like the Monster of 1997/1998

So there you have it — exploding, toxic algae blooms, a Godzilla El Niño, and The Blob. If I weren’t such a weather weenie, I’d be bloody scared…

I might add that El Niño and the Blob together like this constitute something that I don’t believe has been seen before.  And so meteorologists and climatologists have been scratching their heads trying to figure out whether The Blob will interfere with a strong El Niño’s typical effects on weather. These include significantly boosted odds for copious winter precipitation in parts of California.

Will Godzilla eat the blob? What would that even mean? (And would Godzilla get sick from the toxic algae?!) We’ll have to wait another few months to learn the answers.

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  • The truth guy

    Its fukushima stupid.

    • Midus Touch

      Dumb and ignorant and still calls someone stupid how absurd.

    • vardarac

      YES, LOW-CONCENTRATION RADIONUCLIDES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALGAL BLOOMS AND FOOD CHAIN COLLAPSE. PLEASE TELL US MORE!

  • OWilson

    Well, after dealing with your “Organic Brown Gunk”, raining down on Pluto, I suppose the “Blob” is just another sci-fi term to further alarm the alarmed.

    It will certainly be a record observation, though, as the Suomi satellite was only launched in 2011. to replace satellites that went back to 1997.

    How old is the Earth, again? Man, all these “records” in one bloggers short journalistic career, boggles the mind! Or maybe the earth already destroyed itself and we are in an alternate universe?

    More records to come, Tom, and more scary terms to devise.
    Now, about that Nuclear Proliferation. Lol

  • Harold

    If I were you I’d worry more about the 300 tons PER DAY of irradiated water being released into the Pacific by Fukushima. The company that owns Fukushima says publicly they are pushing back their cleanup & containment schedule SIX MORE Years.

    They DO NOT even know where some of the fuel has gone in the meltdown! [Might need to read that again!]

    Fukushima has been described by nuclear engineers, MD’s & marine biologists as an EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT! IT is killing the Pacific ocean!

    So, DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF!

    • OWilson

      What another “extinction level event”?

      Oh dear!

      We’ll soon have enough for a new Reality TV show.

      “What’s your Doomsday” hosted by Chuck Roast. “in which a variety of Scientists and Religious leaders come together to make a case for their favorite scenario”

      The winner takes home a giant autographed hockey stick, as determined by the panel Lady Gaga, Al Gore and Michael Moore.

      • Harold

        12 months :) !

        • OWilson

          “All entries for consideration on our proposed TV show must be submitted 1 month prior to air time, and should be sent to chuckroast at whatsyour doomsday.com”

          No exceptions!

          • Harold

            Well great then!

            I have exceeded the “show’s” requirements by giving YOU extra notice.

            You do understand that eventually there will be a “last day!” RIGHT?
            So why not now?

            Num 6:24-26 to you and yours!

          • OWilson

            The producers have asked that you bring along your best friend’s uncle to make his case if , as you admit, you have no firsthand knowledge yourself of what’s supposed to happen.

            Legal counsel wish to be assured that his particular doomsday scenario has not, in fact, already been submitted, by another contestant.

            Thank you.

          • Harold

            “your best friend’s uncle”

            Yeah, I “kinda” figured you were a little short in that “reading comprehension” area.

            Tell you what, my son also made a perfect score on the state HIGH SCHOOL reading comprehension test. I’ll see if he can tutor you! I don’t know that it would do any good. Obviously, you aren’t the brightest bulb on the tree!

          • OWilson

            Perhaps your could have your son submit your application for you?

            Thanks.

  • Marushka France

    Combination of things are likely. Radioisotopes from Fukushima Daiichi have arrived via the initial fallout from the atmosphere within days and in the plume of radioisotopes in the Pacific – which is beginning to buildup and hasn’t stop being released into the Pacific from Japan — this is repeated from atmospheric tests from the 1950s to 1970s.

    Tracking the initial ocean plume of radioisotopes – keep in mind Cesium is a marker for a whole lot more radioisotopes.

    WHERE DOES FUKUSHIMA GO – Pacific and Atmosphere
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/marushka-france/where-does-fukushima-go-pacific-and-atmosphere/10151889492501649

    Exposure would tax immune system of any species, tendency to use up the reserves of anti-oxidants rapidly, and every exposure can cause damage to organs, glands, brain and nervous system, muscles, bones and/or genetic mutations. These cause cancers, development of disease processes, and/or slow systemic breakdown. It can also cause rapid mutation of microbial biota like viruses, bacteria, algae, fungi…. that can become more toxic.

    So you have multiple species from microbial biota to complex life forms that can be immune compromised from toxins, compromised by mutations of microorganisms, impaired because of absorption of radioisotopes, having a harder time finding food sources because their food source has likewise been compromised….
    plus… a warming ocean due to climate change and shifting locations of species because they’re trying to migrate with rapid change.

    Scientists need to collect and examine possible mutations of the algal blooms compared to historical, biological evidence, take measurements of radioisotopes in coastal ocean and river sediment (where many radioisotopes settle), as well as 100 meter to 400 meter depth, as radioisotopes historically settle at 100 meters depth, and test the organs, bones and flesh of species for cesium, strontium, americium, plutonium, uranium (and others that have been found historically).

    The ‘experts’ from UC Berkeley and Woods Hole have tended to not necessarily look for what and where historical evidence would indicate — not just surface of ocean but varying depths and sediment
    — not just muscle tissue but also organs, bones.

    “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment”
    by Alexey Yablokov, Vasily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko
    NY Academy of Sciences, Volume 1181, 2009.
    5,000 Slavic language studies reviews, over 1,400 cited.
    FREE DOWNLOAD
    >> http://www.strahlentelex.de/Yablokov_Chernobyl_book.pdf
    hard copy now available at Greko Printing P:734.453.0341;

    “ECRR: Chernobyl: 20 Years On
    http://life-upgrade.com/DATA/chernobylebook.pdf
    Spanish http://ciaramc.org/ciar/boletines/cr_bol226.htm

  • Jeanne Marie Bentsen

    The Military Industrial Complex and HAARP are controlling the jet stream and the weather. They are spraying us with aluminum, barium and strontium. Chemical trails sprayed from planes. Look Up. Asthma, Alzheimers, Autism and ADHD are on the rise. Also Parkinsons and Lou Gerrings Disease.The spraying is interfering with the normal activity of the sun. Trees and animal species are dying. Forests are burning up. The elite (Illuminati…Agenda 21) have underground bunkers built, while we will have to face the ongoing global warming which they are making worse with their geo-engineering, as they say it is to cool the planet. They are making it worse. They want to reduce the population.The ice is melting to almost nothing in the Arctic as we speak. Methane gas is releasing into the atmosphere. They now want to rape the Arctic as they have with the rest of the planet. Let’s join in the fight. For more reliable info go to: https://www.facebook.com/dane.wigington.geoengineeringwatch.org

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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.

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