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The West Coast Ocean Warming Kelp, Urchin, Abalone, Starfish Disaster Continues

The West Coast Ocean Warming Kelp, Urchin, Abalone, Starfish Disaster Continues

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 22 October 2019



Bull Kelp on Northern California Coast
Bull Kelp on Northern California Coast, by Peggy Foreman, NOAA Fisheries.
Man cooking the Bull Kelp off the ocean floor is having bad consequences. Image by Peggy Foreman, NOAA Fisheries.


West Coast Ocean Disaster Continues

California's Crashing Kelp Forest,
University of California - Davis, October 21, 2019.


Ocean System Crash
"First the sea stars wasted to nothing. Then the purple urchins took over, eating and eating until the bull kelp forests were gone. The red abalone starved. Their fishery closed. Red sea urchins starved. Their fishery collapsed. And the ocean kept warming."

West Coast Kelp Crash
"...use two decades of kelp ecosystem monitoring data to chronicle the catastrophic shift in 2014 from a robust bull kelp forest to a barren of purple sea urchins. Similar impacts are being observed in kelp forests from Baja California to Alaska."

Ocean Disaster
"More than 90 percent of bull kelp and 96 percent of red abalone were lost along 217 miles of northern California coastline within just a few years. Meanwhile, purple sea urchin populations exploded 60-fold between 2014 and 2015."

The Perfect Disaster

"2013: Sea star wasting disease killed mass numbers of sea stars, a purple sea urchin predator."

"2014-2017: A marine heatwave and El Nino event warmed the nearshore ocean."

"2015: Purple sea urchin populations exploded."

"2017: Mass mortalities of red abalone led to that fishery's closure in 2018 to the present."

The Present Situation
Purple Sea Urchins, "Eating Absolutely Everything"

"What we're seeing now are millions and millions of purple sea urchins, and they're eating absolutely everything."

"They can eat through all the anemones, the sponge, all the kelp, the fleshy red algae. They're even eating through calcified alga and sand."

The Present Situation
Bull Kelp
"Bull kelp are one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth, capable of growing two feet in just a day. If cooler water temperatures return, kelp could likely regrow, the study said. But with ravenous purple sea urchin teeth constantly scraping the bottom of the sea floor, the kelp cannot catch a break."

Empty Urchins
"With so much competition from their brethren, the insides of these urchins are nearly empty. They are starving."

The Present Situation
"There are too many purple urchins, and the kelp forest is in giant trouble."

"...this study illustrates the vulnerability of ecosystems and communities to climate-driven collapses."

Future Forecast
"...another marine heat wave forecast for this winter."


The Current Situation
Tracking Hot Water

Pacific Ocean Temperatures and Temperature Anomalies


The Recent Growth of Ocean Heat:
The Oceans Are Cooking

Total Earth System Heat Content
Total Earth System Heat Content, From Nuccitelli et al.
Most of the excess heat from Global Warming has entered the Oceans. Land, atmosphere, and ice heating (red), 0-700 meter OHC increase (light blue), 700-2,000 meter OHC increase (dark blue).  From Nuccitelli et al. (2012), and added to the SkS Climate Graphics Page.


Current Trajectory of Ocean Heating
Oct 2019
2018 Sea Surface Temperatures Hottest Ever



The Bottom Line

Creating Ocean Deserts
We've created a desert on the ocean floor off the West Coast of the United States. This is because the majority of the heat our over population of this planet generated has gone into the oceans.

Turning Point?
I'm thinking the massive 2015 El Nino represented a turning point in ocean heat absorbtion, from our current status of the ocean absorbing the vast majority of our massive output of anthropogenic heat, to a situation where the oceans are now redistributing vast quanities of this captured heat back into the atmosphere.

Jan 2018
Global Warming News, Recent 2015 Huge El Nino: Shifted Global Temps into New Gear

The Next Step
If the oceans are slowing losing their heat absorbtion abilities, specifically, the ability to continue absorbing our extra heat, and if the oceans have now reached the point where they are beginning to outgass big chuncks of this captured heat, the expansion of deserts across the surface of our planet will easily match the spread of deserts across our sea floors.

It's looking like a race is forming-up.



Researching and Reporting on The Blob

It's Back
October 2019
Massive 2019 Blob Forms


Nov 2018
October 2018: The Blob is Back?


Oct 2018
British Colombia Heat Wave Continuing: The Blob Hides in the Deep


June 2018
What Happened? Retrospective View of The Blob


March 2018
2018 NOAA WEST COAST FISHERIES REPORT, & History of the Blob


Dec 2017
Climate News: The Blob Returneth? A Rerun of Drought Pattern?



Related Die-Offs

Feb 2019
Ocean Ecosystems Under Siege: Sea Star Decline Reverberates


March 2018
Climate Change-Disease Linkage: Two Interesting Cases, Seal Pups & Starfish


March 2018
Ocean News, 2018: What Happened to the Sea Stars?



Ocean Life is in Deep Trouble




News of Man & Nature, October 2019









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ocean warming, kelp disaster, ocean floor, disaster, kelp, abalone, starfish, fisheries, collapse, The Blob, marine heatwave


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