Marine Science Symposium – Monday

 A brief introduction to the Alaska Marine Science Symposium by liveblogger Steve Heimel, who will be bringing Alaska Public Media live coverage through Thursday, Jan. 28.

3:00 p.m. —  The symposium is ahead of schedule because of the storm on the East Coast. The first keynote speaker couldn’t make it in from Washington. The chief staffer of Obama administration’s Arctic Steering Committee, Mark Brzezinski, is now scheduled to speak on Wednesday.

Bears feeding on a fin whale carcass in Larson Bay; Alaska; near Kodiak. Credit: NOAA; June 13, 2015.
Bears feeding on a fin whale carcass in Larson Bay; Alaska; near Kodiak. Credit: NOAA; June 13, 2015.

Because the symposium brings so many scientists to Anchorage, it provides the opportunity to cluster other meetings. And this morning, investigators from a number of fields compared notes on the recent unexplained mortalities of seabirds and fin whales.  They arrived at no conclusion.  It’s still a mystery.  But they do want to know more about “The Blob,” the persistent area of warm sea surface temperature in the Gulf of Alaska that may finally be dissipating.

In the first keynote this afternoon, oceanographer Emanuele Di Lorenzo of Georgial Institute of Technology said that at present The Blob has diminished, but he hypothesized that climate warming makes it more likely that it will come back.  He showed how it was born in 2013, and in 2014-15 a “blob” that might be linked to it expanded to the south, all the way to the equator off the coast of South America, and may have contributed to the intensification of the El Nino, which continues to influence our weather this winter.

Di Lorenzo’s work shows a relationship between the sea surface temperature and atmospheric pressure patterns. He said the “blob” to the south seemed to be coupled with the one in the Gulf of Alaska, while there appears to be an oceanic-atmospheric teleconnection that sends ocean currents northwards and could in turn again strengthen The Blob.


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