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While talking with Yosty, Sonia mentioned a lot of important processes that happen in the Gulf over the course of the year and described what was different during these strange years. During periods of warmer than average water offshore, species of phytoplankton that were indicators of lower nutrient conditions in the Gulf began to make up a large part of plankton blooms in the Gulf of Alaska. Some incidences of species of phytoplankton that can produce harmful toxins were reported in Alaska during those periods. If toxic phytoplankton were consumed by zooplankton, this could impact the higher levels of the food chain of the Gulf of Alaska.

Sonia also pointed out that she expected the abnormally warm water that began at the end of 2013 to have an impact on the plankton, and did it ever! Picking up these clues, Yosty digs even deeper into the oceanic conditions in the Gulf when water temperatures were higher than average by talking to Seth Danielson, an Oceanographer with Gulf Watch Alaska.

Watch the video below to hear about the ocean conditions Seth has observed in the Gulf of Alaska.

VIDEO: Seth Danielson and Ocean Conditions

Seth Danielson describes his observations of recent ocean conditions in the Gulf of Alaska. (4:28)

Video Transcript

Below are two visuals of what Seth, and the other Gulf Watch Alaska Scientists, observed happening to the ocean conditions and organisms in the Gulf of Alaska. The first of two animations depicts what a normal calendar year looks like in the Gulf, while the second portrays how the Gulf was impacted by "The Blob".

VIDEO: Normal Ocean Conditions

Animation of oceanographic conditions in "normal" years. (4:47)

Video Transcript

The unusual warming event in the ocean first detected at the end of 2014 was very different from the seasonal weather pattern of cooling and warming considered normal for the Gulf of Alaska. Watch the next set of animations below to observe the normal pattern of seasonal changes in the ecosystem that scientists have observed and what was different about the “blob” pattern and the effects it may have had on the Gulf of Alaska.

VIDEO: Anomaly "Blob" Conditions

Animation of oceanographic conditions in "Blob" years. (2:10)

Video Transcript

The impacts of this unusually warm "blob" of water were not limited to the Gulf of Alaska. The blob was first seen along the coasts of California and Oregon, and the entire Northeast Pacific has been subject to its impacts. The Gulf Watch Alaska team has been able to piece together the mystery of these unusual events using the power of systems thinking.





Who is watching the Blob?

Meet Kathy
Meet Sonia
Meet Seth

Study area map

  Abundance (n): the number of individuals per population or per species
  Anomaly (n): deviation from normal conditions
  Density (n): measure of mass per unit of volume
  Downwelling/Upwelling (n): the downward (or upward) movement of fluid, especially in the sea
  El Niño (n): large climate disturbances in the tropical Pacific Ocean that occur every 3-7 years and affect ocean water temperature patterns
  Inorganic (adj): not made of living matter
  Near-surface (n): layer of water that lies just beneath the surface
  Salinity (n): the saltiness of a body of water, usually measured in parts per thousand (ppt) by weight
  Standard deviation (n): a measure of how different a set of numbers are
  Stratification (n): when water masses with different properties form layers that act as barriers to water mixing
  Sub-surface (n): layer of water below the surface
  Thermocline (n): transition layer or boundary between two water layers of different temperatures