by Sue KILPATRICK
“The Pacific is my home ocean; I knew it first, grew up on its shore, collected marine animals along the coast. I know its moods, its color, its nature.”
~ John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck wrote of our coastline. His impressions apply to a specific place and time. Now beach homes, hotels, restaurants and lifeguard stands line the beaches ready to shelter and serve. Recently another substantial change has been documented along the California coastline; this one is due to the weather or possibly a further reaching one – climate change.
As you may recall, last weekend the weather reached the low 90s in the foothills. Ventura, although cooler, was a fine place to visit. One might expect in November to be looking from the beach house windows at waves crashing on the shore; however, our experiences were quite the contrary. We were on the sand and in the sea. Not only was the air temperature mild but also the water was warm. Though odd for this second month of autumn, these conditions were far from a simple, fleeting anomaly. While the pleasant weather was within normal range, the same cannot be said of the warmer-than-average ocean temperatures. Though research is ongoing, it seems meteorological and oceanographic systems are the cause.
Jorge Vazquez, a JPL oceanographer and project scientist for Sea Surface Temperature and Salinity for the Physical Oceanography Data Center explained the phenomenon. (Jorge is not only a friend, but also holds the record for the longest title!) He attempted to adjust a scientific explanation from complex to simple. In his words, “The coastal upwelling, which brings colder water to the surface, was weaker this year. ‘Alongshore equatorward winds’ (blowing from north to south along the California coast) produce this coastal upwelling. However, this year, these winds seemed weaker.’”
What does this mean for the lay ocean observer? With waters five to six degrees warmer (10 degrees at Point Conception) than historic averages, a bizarre menagerie of warm-water species have arrived along the west coast, including sea turtles from the Galapagos, tropical jelly fish, Hawaiian ono, sunfish and mahi-mahi. Some local sea life has moved north to cooler waters. Hopefully, they’ll return home soon.
Cloudy with possible drizzle for now; skies clear over the weekend. Next week’s rain on the Central Coast hopefully will get nudged by Mother Nature and continue south. Either way, mild days with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s are predicted.