By Alex Douglas |Staff Writer|
A giant “blob” of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is contributing to the drought in California and the extended winter in the East, according to scientists in the Journal of Geophysical Research Letters.
The patch of warm water was first discovered on June 2014 by researchers for the Journal of Geophysical Research Letters.
The mass of warm water has created a high-pressure ridge over the Pacific Ocean, which has led to calmer seas.
The water remained warmer without the chaotic waters to transfer the heat to the cold air above.
The mass of water covers about 1,000 miles, from Alaska to the top of Mexico, and extends 300 feet deep in the Pacific Ocean.
Nick Bond, a coauthor of the study, stated, “In the fall of 2013 and early 2014, we started to notice a big, almost-circular mass of water that just didn’t cool off as much as it usually did.
“So by Spring of 2014, it was warmer than we had ever seen it for that time of year,” continued Bond.
As air cycles across the warm water “blob”, the air is heated up and brings less snow, leading to drier conditions, according to the study.
Noah Diffenbaugh, associate professor of environmental Earth systems at Stanford University, said, “Our research finds that extreme atmospheric high pressure in this region is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in California.”
The “blob” is also blocking Eastern winter storms from coming to California, deflecting them back up into Alaska and British Columbia.
Most high pressure ridges usually dissipate, allowing rain to get through to California.
The current high-pressure ridge is even stronger than the ridge during the 1976-1977 drought, which was one of the driest in the 20th century.
“This ridge is sort of a mountain in the atmosphere,” said Bob Benjamin, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Monterey.
“In most years, it comes and goes. This year, it came and didn’t go,” continued Benjamin.