Not All "Blobs" are Necessarily Equal


In recent week there have been numerous articles highlighting the strong Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (SSTA) that have developed in the Gulf of Alaska and northeast Pacific Ocean; and equating them to the "Blob" that was a dominant feature in 2014 to 2016 period.  However, it is important not to look at these particular SSTA areas in isolation without looking at SSTA patterns in other parts of the eastern Pacific.  (This is a path that has sometimes been mistakenly taken in the past in regard to El Niño, where ENSO temperatures were taken out of context relative to other parts of the Pacific. One example was the Very Strong El Niño event in the winter of 2015-16, which is looked at in the following:

While the current (September 2019) SSTA for the northeast Pacific does show significant positive SSTA warming in the northern half of the Gulf of Alaska, it is somewhat weaker and farther north that seen in 2014 and 2016. Also of note this year is the strong positive SSTA area west of California, a feature that was weaker and farther south in 2014 and non-existent in 2016.

The bottom line, is that the strength, location and interaction of these anomalous areas, as well as others in the Pacific, and even globally, all affect the circulation patterns of the West Coast differently; thus great caution should be used in drawing any simple (i.e., 1 + 1 = 2, or "blob" = California drought) conclusions as to their impact on the upcoming winter.

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Jan Null, CCM
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
Golden Gate Weather Services
Phone: (408) 379-7500
Twitter: @ggweater