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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

The Blob

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, August 20, 2015/Categories: natural history, marine life, sustainability, environment, climate change

The Blob  was a classic Sci/Fi horror flick from the Cold War era. The plot revolved around an alien amoeba that arrived from outer space that dissolved and eat good citizens in Pennsylvania. The origin of The Blob was never identified but the 1958 film noir is now a cult classic. A new blob has appeared, its source and causes are better understood, and this time it is wreaking havoc from California to Alaska.

Nicholas Bond of the University of Washington  coined the term  to describe a massive patch of warm water that began appearing along the coasts of Oregon and Washington this spring and now extends from southern California to Alaska. This "blob" represents a gigantic version of normal  red tides  that can occur during summer months along many coastlines.

                                                    Toxic Red Tide Algae  (credit: NOAA)

Red tides develop when marine algae undergo explosive growth, typically due to warmer waters. Normally, a red tide consists of a single algal species but in the current situation, three different species are involved. The resulting "blob" is extremely large and is producing high concentrations of a natural toxin called domoic acid. Water samples taken off  Monterey Bay  in California reveal the highest levels of the toxic acid ever recorded. The new red tides are being blamed for the death of seal pups in southern California, restrictions on shellfish and certain commercial fisheries, and depletion of oxygen levels along the Pacific Coast. A NASA satellite photo shows the extent of the toxic algae in late spring.
Toxic Algal Bloom Intensity with red highest, Oregon & Washington, spring 2015  (credit: NASA)

Besides the marine impacts from the toxic tides, they are being implicated in California's current extreme drought. A large high-pressure ridge of hot air is deflecting weather systems northwards preventing storms to move south. The relationship of climate change to all these strange weather events is being investigated.

If "the blob" becomes attributed to climate change, we may still experience consequences like those in the film. 


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