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Media reports on warm ‘blob’ in Pacific Ocean Radioactive!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 15:23
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Media reports on warm ‘blob’ in Pacific Ocean

Media outlets are widely reporting on two recent
studies in the journal Geophysical Research Letters describing a
giant “blob” of warm water that may be responsible for recent
ecological and weather anomalies across the United States — from
California’s drought to the East Coast’s severe winter to the
thousands of dying sea lions washing up along the West Coast. The
“blob” — more precisely, the “warm anomaly” — is a patch of ocean
water just off the coast of the Pacific Northwest that is about
1,000 miles across, 300 feet deep, and 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees
Fahrenheit) warmer than usual. It received its nickname from Nick
Bond of Washington State University, lead author of one of the new
studies. Do the new studies actually explain what the media are
claiming? Are there potential explanations that are being ignored?
What did the studies find? Already, researchers have linked the
blob to many of this past year’s alarming ecological occurrences.
Warmer water is less rich in nutrients, which scientists say has
caused effects including a crash in the population of copepods
(tiny animals that form the base of the ocean’s food web) and the
starvation of sea lion pups, causing thousands of the animals to
strand themselves onshore. The warm water has also caused tropical
fish to appear near Seattle. The new study by Bond and colleagues
also links the blob to the recent weather disturbances. The
researchers claim that the blob actually has an atmospheric cause:
an unseasonal ridge of high-pressure air hovering above it. This
high-pressure air (instead of the low-pressure air typical for the
winter) has been associated with the ocean becoming unseasonably
calm and warm, removing a major source of rain for the West Coast
and contributing to California’s drought and the West Coast’s
warmer-than-usual winter, according to the researchers. The second
study traced the blob to another patch of unseasonably warm water,
this one in the Tropics near the intersection of the Equator and
the International Date Line. This warm water has been heating up
the air above it, directly leading to the unseasonably warm patch
of air that is heating the waters off the U.S. coast. “It’s like
throwing a rock into a pond,” researcher Dennis Hartmann said. “The
wave eventually makes its way to the other side.” This same wave of
warm air actually crosses the entire North American continent, the
researchers found, eventually causing a wet, low-pressure system
over the central and eastern United States. This system, called a
“North Pacific Mode,” contributed to this year’s remarkably cold
and snowy winter, the researchers claim. Although North Pacific
Modes have been observed before, this past year’s was more extreme
and longer lasting than has been seen before. Potential Fukushima
link not being investigated According to media reports, no one
knows what has caused the unusually warm Tropical waters
responsible for all of these climate and ecological effects. But
some have asked whether radioactive material emitted into the ocean
by the Fukushima disaster might not be partially responsible. In
2011, multiple meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power
plant caused a flood of radioactive material to enter the Pacific
Ocean. Since then, some observers have drawn attention to a trend
of a rapidly warming Pacific Ocean. The question has been raised as
to whether this could be caused by heated groundwater and
radioactive waste from the Fukushima plant flowing into the
Pacific, thereby slowly raising ocean temperatures over the past
few years. Since this radioactive material has been continuously
flowing from the plant over the past four years, this mass could
have drifted out to sea and could still be heating water as a side
effect of its ongoing radioactive decay.

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