the blob

Alaska ShoreZone Program NOAA/NMFS/AKFSC; Courtesy of Mandy Lindeberg, NOAA/NMFS/AKFSC.

It may seem like the blob was a problem unique to Alaska but other places have also experienced bursts of rising water temperatures. Earlier this month, marine scientists gathered at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Oregon to learn from one another and build on each other’s research, including research on warmer water temperatures. KBBI’s Renee Gross caught up with the Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Kasitsna Bay Laboratory Kris Holderied who attended the conference. 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Common murres have had a few bad years. The unusual warm weather temperatures, known as the blob, dramatically shifted the availability of their food supply in the Gulf of Alaska, starving thousands of birds to death. And most murres stopped breeding. But there is some good news. A small amount of baby murres are hatching again in colonies from the Gulf of Alaska to the Bering Sea.

It’s not unusual for common murres to have die-offs. But Heather Renner, a supervisory biologist at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, said the die-off a few years ago was unprecedented.

Courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks

Over the last year, warm water temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska, infamously known as the blob, have dissipated. Warmer water temps are thought to have a hand in massive bird die-offs and a decline in Pacific cod stocks. Now that the three-year period of summer-like marine conditions is over, scientists and fishery managers are eager to assess the full impact of the blob.