Weather Scientists Want Your Help To Understand 'The Blob' | KUOW News and Information

Weather Scientists Want Your Help To Understand 'The Blob'

Aug 12, 2015

Call it “The Blob.”

It’s an unusually warm patch of water off the West Coast that has flummoxed climatologists.

“It’s still rearing its ugly head,” said Nick Bond, Washington state climatologist and regular contributor to KUOW. He first detected The Blob in 2013. 

The Blob currently is 1,000 miles wide and 300 feet deep. Climatologists and oceanographers want to know whether it's to blame for the drought gripping the West Coast. Oceanographers wonder if it’s causing the largest bloom of toxic algae in more than a decade.

That bloom is unprecedented in its scale, according to toxic algae expert Vera Trainer of the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration.

Earlier this summer, wildlife managers spotted a sea lion on the southern Washington coast that was arching its back and having seizures. After euthanizing it, they discovered the animal had eaten some sort of marine life contaminated with a neurotoxin produced by the algae, Pseudo-nitzchia.

Bond said scientists are asking for help in studying the blob. Lay people can sign up to run computer models through a project launched by Oxford University and the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, or OCCRI.

“They can run some climate model runs on their computers that we can use to tear apart the kind of cause and effect with what's going on with the weather and climate these days,” Bond said. “It's no work on their part.”

The effort uses a volunteer computing platform originally developed to support SETI@home, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, according to the website.

Scientists are asking: What caused The Blob? How much effect does it have on our weather? Does it affect wind patterns? “By having a bunch of these model runs and I'm talking about thousands, we can really kind of tear into that more,” Bond said.

“We've been handed by Mother Nature a really extreme climate event, and so it's a chance to really learn how the system works and how the pieces fit together,” he said.

Click here to sign up to help climatologists understand The Blob

Results for Washington state so far

EarthFix's Ashley Ahearn contributed reporting.

Produced for the Web by Isolde Raftery.