In 2013, scientists detected a large patch of water in the Pacific Ocean that was warmer than it should’ve been. They dubbed the patch “The Blob” — and subsequently determined that climate change had caused it.
The blob stems from a years-long severe marine heatwave, believed to be caused by an anticyclone weather system that first appeared in 2013.
The weather phenomenon known as El Niño accelerated the warming temperatures beginning in 2015 and, by 2016, the rising heat resulted in water temperatures nearly 11F (6C) above average.
Now, a new study has identified what may be the blob’s greatest victim yet: a species of seabird known as the murre.
For this new study researchers from the University of Washington, the United States Geological Survey, and other institutions determined that approximately 62,000 murre carcasses had washed ashore from central California through Alaska between the summer of 2015 and spring of 2016.
In some locations, the number of carcasses was 1,000 times more than normal. In total, the researchers estimate that one million murres died during the time period they studied, making the event the largest mass death of seabirds in recorded history.
“Food demands of large commercial groundfish like cod, pollock, halibut and hake were predicted to increase dramatically with the level of warming observed with the blob,” researcher John Piatt said in a press release, “and since they eat many of the same prey as murres, this competition likely compounded the food supply problem for murres, leading to mass mortality events from starvation.”
Reference- The Guardian, Journal PLOS One, Futurism,