Unusual warm ocean conditions off West Coast bringing odd species

Hawaiian ono swimming off the California coast? Giant sunfish in Alaska? A sea turtle usually at home off the Galapagos Islands floating near San Francisco?

Rare changes in wind patterns this fall have caused the Pacific Ocean off California and the West Coast to warm to historic levels, drawing in a bizarre menagerie of species. The mysterious phenomena are surprising fishermen and giving marine biologists an aquatic Christmas in November.

Temperatures off the California coast are currently 5 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than historic averages for this time of year - among the warmest autumn conditions of any time in the past 30 years.

"It's not bathtub temperature," said Nate Mantua, a research scientist with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Santa Cruz, "but it is swimmable on a sunny day."

In mid-October, it was 65 degrees off the Farallon Islands and in Monterey Bay, and 69 degrees off Point Conception near Santa Barbara. In most years, temperatures in those areas would be in the high 50s or low 60s.

The last time the ocean off California was this warm was in 1983 and 1997, both strong El Nino years that brought drenching winter rains to the West Coast.

But El Nino isn't driving this year's warm-water spike, which began in mid-July, experts say. Nor is climate change.

What's happening is winds that normally blow from the north, trapping warm water closer to the equator, have slackened since the summer. That's allowed the warm water to move north.

In most years, the winds also help push ocean surface waters, churning up cold water from down below. That process, called upwelling, isn't happening as much this year.

"If the wind doesn't blow, there's no cooling of the water," Mantua said. "It's like the refrigerator fails. The local water warms up from the sun, and is not cooling off."

Mantua said researchers don't know why the winds slacked off - or when they will start again.

"It's a mystery," he said.

All year, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been forecasting an El Nino, conditions in which warm ocean water at the equator near South America can affect the weather in dramatic ways. But now the water is only slightly warmer than normal at the equator, leading scientists to declare a mild El Nino is on the way. And although strong El Ninos often have brought wet winters to California, mild ones have just as often resulted in moderate or dry winters.

For people who study the ocean, this fall has been a wonderland.

"It's fascinating," said Eric Sanford, a marine biology professor at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory in Bodega Bay. "To see so many southern species in a single year is really a rare event."

Sanford, colleague Jackie Sones and other researchers at the Bodega lab, along with scientists at Point Blue Conservation Science, a nonprofit group in Petaluma, have documented more than 100 common dolphins off the Farallon Islands in the past two months. They're normally seen hundreds of miles away, off Southern California.

The scientists have scooped up a tiny species of ocean snail called the tropical sea butterfly, normally found far to the south. They have documented a Guadalupe fur seal, normally found off Baja California in Mexico; blue buoy barnacles and purple-striped jellyfish, which usually drift off Southern California; and a Guadalupe murrelet, a tiny seabird that frequents Mexico.

In September, a fisherman off San Francisco caught an endangered green sea turtle, an extremely rare find for Northern California, since the species usually lives off Mexico and the Galapagos Islands. He returned it to the sea unharmed.

Similar tales are turning up in Southern California, where fishermen and scientists have found Hawaiian ono, along with tripletail, a fish species commonly found between Costa Rica and Peru, and other warm-water species.

In August and September there were even sightings of skipjack tuna and giant sunfish, or mola mola, off Alaska.

"They are following the water temperature," said H.J. Walker, a senior museum scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. "Fish come up against a cold-water barrier normally and turn around. But now they aren't encountering that, so they are swimming farther north."

Over the past week, the water temperature at the Scripps pier in La Jolla was 71 degrees. The historic average back to 1916 for late October is 65 degrees.

In many parts of California, the commercial salmon catch was down, and squid were caught as far north as Eureka, which is unusual.

"Our guys in Santa Barbara are saying there's almost nothing down there. Just a lot of warm, clear water, a little bit of salmon and not much else," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Federation of Fishermen's Associations in San Francisco.

The ocean changes also have affected birds. As ocean upwelling stalled in the summer, less krill and other food rose from the depths. As a result, several species of birds, including common murres, had high rates of egg failure on the Farallon Islands, 27 miles west of San Francisco.

"The krill that is usually present disappeared, and the fish that some of these birds rely on disappeared," said Jaime Jahncke, California Current Group director of Point Blue in Petaluma.

"Up until July we had an abundance of whales around the Farallons, mostly humpback whales, and some blue whales. And when we went back in September, there was no krill and the whales were nearly absent."

More common local species are expected to return when waters cool, as they did after the 1983 and 1997 warmings.

"It is an oddball year. But I'm not surprised," said Joe Welsh, associate curator of collecting for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. "These things come and go. There's a lot to learn out there."


Explore further

El Nino and La Nina explained

©2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services

Citation: Unusual warm ocean conditions off West Coast bringing odd species (2014, November 4) retrieved 13 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2014-11-unusual-ocean-conditions-west-coast.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Nov 04, 2014
"...Nor is climate change..." -- again what is this sudden change of tune?

Nov 04, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Nov 04, 2014
Let see if you can debunk the following hypothesis (then, we can discuss "dark matter cloud pervading the solar system"). Humans build increasing numbers of heat sources, which warm the environment _directly_. Is there anything wrong with this simplistic explanation?

Nov 05, 2014
"Humans build increasing numbers of heat sources, which warm the environment _directly_."

Yes. We know how much heat humans add to the climate (because we know how much fossil fuel is consumed) and it's much, much less than the amount of heat added to the climate due to human contributions to greenhouse gases (http://www.skepti...ming.htm ). There are other ways to debunk the waste heat hypothesis (the warming signature doesn't match waste heat, the warming is greatest in the arctic - where there are no humans, etc.), but the first point is conclusive enough.

Nov 05, 2014
I was not interested in debunking wasted heat hypothesis per se. I was checking if one specific person (who put forward "accelerated with dark matter cloud") is qualified to debunk it.

BTW, wasted heat is not without its merit. For example, it is often asked why skeptics don't bet on global average temperature going down? Some of them do, but this is a loosing proposition due to wasted heat.

Nov 05, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Nov 05, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Nov 05, 2014
Not to refute the article on a subject I have only ancillary awareness, but wouldn't currents be more responsible than wind in dragging animals along, and currents/ water having more heat capacity than air, drive wind?

@zz555, except that this little plot demonstrates pretty effectively how little significance CO2 plays.
http://en.wikiped...m_en.svg
Which leaves man-contributed heat as the only contender: It can't escape until it goes someplace cold...

where there are no humans
this is a great point. It is greatest there partially for the reason above, but also because the poles are where everything goes, driven by weather. Not only waste heat, but it is kind of a dumping ground for everything, low pressure, cold temps, make things tend to stick around.

Which is why small changes in temperature correspond to GDP, and not to CO2, QED.

Nov 05, 2014
@Erson, your aquathermal model sounds just like my global melting model. Welcome, I could use the help.
Hopefully we'll have some neat differences. <1/10000 of the Sun. Which is right in the ball park.
In the previous years I've been more concerned with ice melting. But recent changes in the Earth have caused emphasis to change, if it can be believed, to the oceans. Of course oceans change temperature ~1 degree/gram calorie, whereas ice buffers 333 times that, plus the temperature it takes to get to 0, so ocean effects are going to be more interesting, as we may be seeing on other pages of this site.

Nov 05, 2014
"@zz555, except that this little plot demonstrates pretty effectively how little significance CO2 plays.
http://en.wikiped...m_en.svg"

I'm not going to waste much time on this silliness, but what are you talking about? The spectrum of sunlight disproves CO2 as a major player in climate change? That's got to be the silliest thing I've heard. Don't you know anything about how greenhouse gases work (answer appears to be no)? You might want to research polar amplification.

"Which leaves man-contributed heat as the only contender: It can't escape until it goes someplace cold..."

Fascinating - you believe radiative transfer must only occur someplace cold. I suspect that would be stunningly embarrassing to anyone familiar with science. You still have the problem that the known quantity of waste heat is ~1% of measured heat addition due to greenhouse gases. And also all that science stuff that refutes your above nonsense.

Nov 06, 2014
@zz5555, no, just no.
One, The spectrum reflects absorption by water vapour and CO2, and if you won't see that, there is a reason.

Two, heat goes from hot to cold, surplus to dearth.
~1% waste heat, I have no idea where you get 1%. Autos are less than 60% efficient, and practically speaking, 100% of the fuel you burn, whether it is to power a car or a lamp, goes to waste heat.

Visible light, from street lamps for example strikes asphalt and is absorbed and converted to ~ ambient.

This is well mixed, and so not readily lost via the atm window, and so is carried to regions colder, where it, melts ice.

Actually, it doesn't appear to be so simple now, it seems the ocean is sinking more heat, as a result of diminished polar ice.

Nov 06, 2014
"The spectrum reflects absorption by water vapour and CO2"

This appears to be meaningless babbling. But, again, what does the sun's spectrum have to do with greenhouse gases and heat in the Arctic? Greenhouse gases also work in the dark.

"heat goes from hot to cold, surplus to dearth"

Heat also goes from cold to hot, you know. But I'm not sure what point this has.

"~1% waste heat, I have no idea where you get 1%."

Again, we know how much waste heat is generated because we know how much fossil fuel and nuclear fuel is used by the world. We also know how much heat is added to the climate by greenhouse gases because it can be measured. The amount of waste heat generated is ~1% of the amount of heat added to the climate by greenhouse gases. As I linked before: http://www.skepti...ming.htm . Waste heat can be of interest if you're living in a big city, but there's a lot of Earth out there (in fact, most of the Earth) without waste heat.

Nov 06, 2014
I was not interested in debunking wasted heat hypothesis per se. I was checking if one specific person (who put forward "accelerated with dark matter cloud") is qualified to debunk it
@Tegiri
you are not likely to get any legitimate science, math or physics out of tritace, who is also erson, who is actually ZEPHIR, the aether acolyte
sorry... he has a few other names as well, so he is not only not qualified, but he will likey promote worse pseudoscience than the creationists or ALCHE/crybaby prophet

@zz555, except that this little plot demonstrates pretty effectively how little significance CO2 plays
@ALCHE
i am going to answer FOR ZZ
you are a liar
you have already been debunked with regard to CO2 as well

please refute the following with equivalent studies from peer reviewed reputable sources
http://www.scienc...abstract

http://marine.rut..._pub.pdf

Nov 06, 2014
this little plot demonstrates pretty effectively how little significance CO2 plays.
http://en.wikiped...m_en.svg
@zz5555
You could always ignore the idiocy of alche/crybaby/waterprophet? LOL

not telling you how to argue with alche, but...
the best evidence to use against him is empirical evidence
when he states the above, it is a blatant lie and i have already supplied him with the following link: http://www.scienc...abstract

he has no equivalent evidence refuting this study
this study directly refutes his claims as well

If you cannot read the full study, contact me by e-mail or post something to me here: http://saposjoint.net/Forum/
(i am TruckCaptainStumpy)
I can provide you the entire study if need be, ok? but even the abstract gives you enough to refute alche the idiot prophet of water bowls and denial

Nov 07, 2014
Captain,
Thanks for the link, I'll check it out at work. I find it amusing that WP links to a image of the solar spectrum to claim that CO2 doesn't have much effect on climate, when that really shows one of the reasons greenhouse gases do have a large effect.

WP, just to clarify, greenhouse gases pretty much don't care about the incoming light. Most of it just passes through to hit the earth's surface (note the CO2 band is high up where there's not much irradiance). It's the emitted heat coming from the earth's surface that's important (e.g., see http://eesc.colum...tion.gif ). Anything warming the earth's surface will increase the greenhouse gas effect - even your waste heat and the back radiation from greenhouse gases. So waste heat does contribute to warming - it's just that it's such a small contribution compared to everything else.

Nov 07, 2014
@zz555, correct. I've been doing this 30 years, you can assume I don't need basic information about GH phenomenon. Maybe it was IN MY ABOVE POST where I called attention to the very phenomenon you call attention to
Visible light, from street lamps for example strikes asphalt and is absorbed and converted to ~ ambient.


Water is trapping thermal energies near the ground, much much much more effectively than CO2. It has has a 2.2% increase, yet thermal effects are not there as expected for either.

That is the kind of discrepancy that makes any real scientist, amateur or otherwise say, "Hmmm, something interesting is going on here."

Nov 07, 2014
I've been doing this 30 years, you can assume I don't need basic information about GH phenomenon.
Actually, you've proven several times that you actually DO need to learn some of the most basic information about GH phenomenon.

Water is trapping thermal energies near the ground, much much much more effectively than CO2. It has has a 2.2% increase, yet thermal effects are not there as expected for either.
See!

That is the kind of discrepancy that makes any real scientist, amateur or otherwise say, "Hmmm, something interesting is going on here."
Yes, which is why a "real" scientist understands that CO2 forcing in the atmosphere is a most worrying thing.

Nov 07, 2014
Maggnus, your lucky day, I forgot to ignore you.
I do see, that you obviously don't understand the basics. Surprising from someone who didn't know what a mole was. You really don't understand that when higher energy light is absorbed, it is usually re-emitted as thermal radiation?

It is not a difficult concept. Consider yourself educated, and ignored.

I guess this IS a joy you will never experience...
"Hmmm, something interesting is going on here."

I feel sorry for you.

Nov 07, 2014
"I've been doing this 30 years, you can assume I don't need basic information about GH phenomenon."

Yes, and you showed an irrelevant plot of sunlight spectrum to show, as you said, "that this little plot demonstrates pretty effectively how little significance CO2 plays." The fact that the plot is irrelevant to greenhouse gases shows that you've been incorrect about the science for 30 years.

"That is the kind of discrepancy that makes any real scientist, amateur or otherwise say, "Hmmm, something interesting is going on here.""

Yes, that's why scientists understand how water can't drive climate change. But as you've been at this for 30 years, you already know this.

The fact that the contribution to warming by waste heat is ~1% that of the contribution from greenhouse gases is the the kind of discrepancy that makes any real scientist, amateur or otherwise say, "Hmmm, something not very interesting is going on here." ;)

But I think I've wasted enough time here.

Nov 08, 2014
The fact that your are deliberately misconstruing what that very simple plot says, says alot about your motivations.

It quit plainly shows how much more important water vapor is than CO2.

And just FYI:
http://en.wikiped...er_vapor

I disagree, with the anemic assessment, obviously, but it does sufficiently demonstrate to you that water is far more important... indeed a 2.2% (450ppm) https://wiki.brow...etherley increase in H2O should have roughly 12x the effect of a 135ppm increase in CO2. It somehow doesn't. Many reasons for this, but the most obvious is the GHG contribute so little to the atmospheric warming of the Earth in the first place.

The plot does not demonstrate I've been wrong 30 years, I just found it. The plot shows relative absorbency of water vs CO2. That you don't understand it... it's an important problem, I never consider it a waste.

Nov 08, 2014
Double post removal.

Nov 08, 2014
Obviously the Sun, the Earth's rotation, then the atmosphere, then the mixing of the homosphere, then mixing due to weather, then warming due to evaporation/condensation, then water as a GHG, and finally other GHGs are the order of battle for warming the Earth. Wiki puts water vs CO2 at about 70/30. But water vapor has a global minimum average of roughly 20,000 ppm, CO2 less than 400ppm despite Al's predictions.

"Hmmm, something interesting is going on here."

Nov 08, 2014
Obviously the Sun, the Earth's rotation, then the atmosphere, then the mixing of the homosphere, then mixing due to weather, then warming due to evaporation/condensation, then water as a GHG, and finally other GHGs are the order of battle
@ALCHE/crybaby
please provide the citations that support your conclusions
otherwise it is just more "kohl-slaw" conjecture

also: you had no idea what the "homosphere" was until Thermodynamics pointed it out to you a few months back, and you've never specifically mentioned it until after the Thermo Model attempt where you backed out because of your fear of a forced alteration to your delusion

your problem is tunnel vision on water (we KNOW the effects)
and you continually fail to mention is that the water vapor feedback loop actually makes temperature changes caused by CO2 even bigger. which is why CO2 is so important in the chain of evidence
http://www.scienc...abstract


Nov 08, 2014
@Stumpy,
Only an idiot would need citations for the above: If only one side of the earth faced the Sun, it would be warmer on one side, but near absolute zero on the other.
The homosphere, true, but since its existence damaged your theory, and does not impact mine, so what? You did not acknowledge it in your model. In addition you were trying to claim thermodynamic mixing for the homosphere's effects, so not something to laud.
Temperature stabilization due to weather? That's what weather does, transports heat to the poles.
Then, wiki says what your link says. 25%, which is silly, but I acknowledge for the sake of argument.

WHY do you need citations? This is basic stuff, are you that uneducated? You need citations for state of the art. This is not the SoA, there is nothing contentious about what I state except that it trivializes CO2, and demonstrates other factors at play.

Besides, my citations have been these articles lately, they've been 30 years behind me.

Nov 08, 2014
WHY do you need citations? This is basic stuff, are you that uneducated?
@ALCHE/crybaby
citations for the order, ranking and all that?
i want to know exactly where your info comes from so that it is easier to classify what type of delusional idiot you are, so give citations or STFU
its existence damaged your theory
it did no such thing, moron
and no matter what you "believe", there is irrefutable science supporting AGW whereas all you've given is personal opinion
my citations have been these articles
articles are NOT empirical evidence nor are they studies
so at least that clears up a lot... you think articles are equivalent to studies
they've been 30 years behind me
TROLL/BAIT/SPAM comment
there is NO empirical evidence that you have any accuracy or even historical publications which predict the current climate

this has already been proven
troll that one elsewhere

Nov 08, 2014
there is nothing contentious about what I state except that it trivializes CO2, and demonstrates other factors at play.
@ALCHE/crybaby
1- you cannot demonstrate other factors with a your model/comments because there is no empirical evidence nor is there any use of the scientific method to remove bias
in fact, your biased comments are specifically designed to attempt self-authority where there is no scientific ability proven
2- you trivialize CO2 without any evidence in direct refute to studies which i have provided which undermine your comments

this is exactly my point, btw, with regard to most of your posts
there is no science
there is only personal POV perspective with lots of conjecture and no supporting evidence

again: this is the reason you have not been able to refute my linked studies above

Nov 08, 2014
Only an idiot would need citations for the above: If only one side of the earth faced the Sun, it would be warmer on one side, but near absolute zero on the other.

Completely untrue. Look up atmospheric circulation on tidal-locked planets. Constant patterns of air flow occur which moderate temperature gradients. Studies on this subject are quite abundant and very easy to look up.

Here's one simulation of a tidal-locked earth run to cover 50 years. The expected global temperature spread is only about 150°F, not much different that what now exists:

-- Animations of coupled simulations of tidally locked Earth --
http://www.meteo....ked.html

Only if there was a no atmosphere (total vacuum) could the temp drop anywhere near absolute zero.

Nov 08, 2014
Yeeeaaah @Mando, that's why I mentioned it BEFORE I mentioned atmosphere. Stay with me.
Of course you can't have many of these effects, including some rotation effects, Coriolis etc., eg., without the atm., but that's not really the point.
The point is, what's the point of citations for common knowledge? I don't need to cite to show the Sun is the most important source of heat, that the Earth rotates, that rotation impacts heat/temperature, etc..
Anyone who needs citations for this should seriously consider going over to a children's site.

Nov 09, 2014
Comet-isonc2012 create dust and moisture thus it is like cloud seeding. Just as I predicted extreme weather this year.

Nov 09, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more