The researchers have found that the blob, an abnormally warm water in the Pacific Ocean, has increased the ozone levels in the Western U.S.
The blob is defined to cover 9 million square kilometers, which is from Mexico to Alaska. It is also assumed to make alterations to the ocean’s conditions and air quality. Regarding the blob, team member Dan Jaffe from the University of Washington Bothell stated:
“Ultimately, it all links back to the blob, which was the most unusual meteorological event we’ve had in decades.”
The blob was first observed in 2013 and continued to cover more area in 2014 and 2015. The blob was less significant in 2016, yet there were indications for its continuity.
The blob does not only warm the oceans but affect the marine life. In 2015, there has been a massive die-off of the California sea lions and sea birds in the Western U.S. due to starvations. This sad situation occurred only because of a 3 degrees Celsius increase in the sea water. Besides the animal life, there also has been a toxic algal bloom surrounding the U.S. West Coast. Marine ecologist Jaime Jahncke commented on this situation in 2015:
“I can’t truly give an explanation of what is going on right now.”
Jaffe and his team observed a bizarre increase in the ozone levels in 2015. They mapped the blob’s growth over time and positioned temperature changes in the Pacific Ocean with multiple satellites. After thorough analysis, they have come to the conclusion that the blob can be linked to an increase of 3 and 13 parts per billion in the ozone levels. Yet, at first, Jaffe thought that they made a mistake due to the results:
“At first we were like ‘Whoa, maybe we made a mistake.’ We looked at our sensors to see if we made an error in the calibration. But we couldn’t find any mistakes. Then I looked at other ozone data from around the Pacific Northwest, and everybody was high that year.”
Normally, the winds in the West Coast should drag away the top layer of the ocean. This would allow the cold water to bring nutrients and balance the temperature. The blob’s effect in this situation is that it increased the surface temperature and caused the wind to heat up. This weakened the winds and made them unable to push the warm water on top from the shores.
As the high temperatures stayed in the shore, clouds didn’t form, and this led to a chemical reaction that breaks down the oxygen molecules through UV sunlight.
“Temperatures were high, and it was much less cloudy than normal, both of which trigger ozone production. And because of that high-pressure system off the coast, the winds were much lower than normal. Winds blow pollution away, but when they don’t blow, you get stagnation and the pollution is higher.”
Although the increase of the ozone level was temporary, the team still warns that this can be a permanent situation in the future. To avoid it, certain actions should be taken against the blob. Otherwise, ozone pollution will keep harming the human life through respiratory dysfunction, asthma, and bronchitis.