Wednesday 3 April 2019

Temperature blob in Pacific Ocean gives a glimpse of climate impact on humpback whales

March 20, 2019 by Bob Yirka, report
A team of researchers with the Keiki Kohola Project and California State University reports that a recent "blob" of warm water in the Pacific gives marine scientists a preview of the impact of climate change on humpback whales. In their paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, the group describes their study of the whales and what they found.
Humpback whales were once hunted to the point that they became endangered, but several decades ago, international laws were enacted to protect them, and they rebounded—these measures were so successful that the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service took the whales off the endangered species list back in 2016. But now, it appears the whales face a new threat—climate change.
In a new effort, the researchers studied the reproductive habits of humpback whales that migrate between the waters off the Alaskan coast and those that surround the Hawaiian Islands. They had noted that in 2013, a giant mass or "blob" of warm water had formed in the Gulf of Alaska, and over the course of the next six years, slowly made its way south. Prior research had shown that temperatures in the blob were up to 3 degrees C warmer than surrounding water—high enough to kill krill and other sea creatures that serve as food for humpback whales. This led the researchers to embark on a study of the impact of the blob on the humpback whales.

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