Scientists have been watching it since 2013: an unnaturally warm patch of the Pacific Ocean, a thousand miles long and a thousand miles wide, and growing. They call it “the blob."
Noah Diffenbaugh, Senior Fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, says it may be playing a key role in California’s extreme drought, by feeding off a ridge of high pressure that's preventing rain, or vice versa.
“This blob of warm temperature in the ocean, that's basically sitting under this ridge of high pressure in the atmosphere,” Diffenbaugh said. “So that's one hypothesis, that these two are sort of restoring each other.”
NOAA data show the so-called blob is inching closer to California. As air passes over the warm water on its way toward the state’s coastline, it brings more heat and less snow, contributing to drought conditions up and down the West Coast.
Fish, like barracuda, that have no business being in the area have been turning up.
And then there's the baby seals recently found on local beaches abandoned. Wildlife rescuers say mothers will leave their pups when they can't find enough food, another sign of warmer waters.