UW Prof: Warm 'blob' of Pacific Ocean waters is dead

    Image from Earth.nullschool.net shows sea surface temperature anomalies. Red is warmer than usual water while blue denotes colder water.

    SEATTLE -- It's been a stormy December that has frequent bouts with power outages and heavy rains -- and even a tornado. But the stormy pattern did have a side benefit: It apparently killed The Blob, according to UW Atmospheric Sciences professor Cliff Mass.

    "The Blob" is the nickname that's been given to an anomalous patch of warm waters in the northern Pacific Ocean. We had a Super Blob in 2015 that helped cause the warmest year on record, and with the dry summer and early start to fall, the Blob had returned for this year as well, and we had a very mild October and November.

    The Blob is caused when high pressure dominates the Gulf of Alaska and Northern Pacific Ocean, leading to an extended period of tranquil weather. The relatively calm seas warm on the surface with the sunshine and the ensuring warming waters causing some warming downstream.

    But the weather pattern underwent a wholesale change in December, Mass said, with persistent large areas of low pressure and frequent storms now rolling through the north Pacific. You might have noticed.

    The stormy weather churns the seas as high winds and large swells stir up colder water from the deeper, sun-starved depths of the oceans and brings that cooler water to the surface. A Blob killer.

    Current sea-surface readings now actually show a small patch of cooler water where the Blob had once been -- which should help bring the warm early start to winter down and in fact, the pattern is trending cooler toward next week, though not directly connected to the demise of the Blob.

    The bad news for skiers is we're still looking at heading into an El Nino winter (though technically it still hasn't arrived yet!) and all long range forecasts still suggest a mild and drier than usual winter.

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