El Niño Just Made That Mysterious Warm Blob in the Ocean Disappear

Two years ago, a huge, inexplicable hot patch of water appeared in the Pacific Ocean, and stayed right through the seasons—until now. Referred to among scientists as “the Blob,” it’s finally gone away, taken by El Niño. It may only be a matter of time, though, before the Blob lives again.


When the Blob appeared in the Pacific sometime around the end of 2013, scientists thought it was just a temporary anomaly in hot ocean temperatures. When it hadn’t disappeared after two years, however, the question instead became whether or not it was going away at all. With the latest data, NASA’s Earth Observatory is finally calling the Blob dead.

The hot, still water in the Blob was so churned up by the combination of El Niño winds and low sea surface pressures that, although there were some initial fears that warm El Niño temperatures might make things even hotter, instead the opposite happened. This El Niño is probably the strongest one ever seen. Even with all that strength, though, the Blob was so resilient to change that, even though El Niño started to work on it in November, it took months for it to finally break itself apart.

The disappearance of the Blob is good news, especially for fishers. While it was there, the Blob’s warm water killed off marine life and fed a toxic algae bloom. What it’s not, though, is anything even approaching an answer to just what all of that was—or what it might be in the coming years.

Researchers still aren’t really sure where the Blob came from the first time, and so they’re also not sure whether El Niño’s dissipation of that hot water is permanent or temporary. What they are sure of, though, is that—even after El Niño broke things up—the residual heat of the Blob was so intense that pockets of warm water still remain as deep as 300 meters below the surface to this day. At least for now, though, the larger Blob seems to have left as mysteriously as it came.

[NASA Earth Observatory]

Image: A comparison of Pacific sea surface anomalies at the end of July 2015 and the beginning of January 2016 / Images from NASA Earth Observatory


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There’s a comment downstream that deserves to stay in the greys. It says

I’m sure the global warming crowd will explain it away.

Which I know... I know that the person making the comment is trying to be dismissive about scientists, because that’s a thing they do. But it’s actually pretty hilarious when rewritten in the original English, without the talking points enabled.

I’m sure that scientists will explain this

Like, yes, that’s exactly what scientists do. They explain things. You figured it out.

edited to add: someone fed that comment. :-(
edited again to add: ... and now it’s upstream. for fraks sakes kids this is why we can’t have nice things.