Una masa gigante de agua tibia frente a la costa del Pacífico podría rivalizar con 'la gota' de 2014-15

Una gran masa de agua inusualmente cálida amenaza con perturbar el ecosistema marino a lo largo de la costa del Pacífico desde el sur de California hasta Alaska, dijeron el jueves científicos de la Administración Nacional Oceánica y Atmosférica.

Lo llaman la ola de calor marina del Pacífico nororiental de 2019, y si no se disipa pronto, los investigadores dijeron que podría ser tan destructivo como la infame " gota" de agua tibia que causó la proliferación masiva de algas tóxicas a lo largo de la costa y causó estragos en las ballenas , salmón, lobos marinos y otras especies marinas en 2014 y 2015.

"Realmente, solo el tiempo dirá si esta característica persistirá y si rivalizará con el evento pasado en duración e impacto", dijo Andrew Leising , un oceanógrafo de investigación en el Centro de Ciencias Pesqueras del Suroeste de la NOAA en La Jolla.

Las olas de calor marinas se definen como eventos oceánicos en los que la temperatura de la superficie del agua es más cálida que el 90% de las mediciones pasadas durante al menos cinco días seguidos.

La ola de calor marina del Pacífico nororiental de 2019 cubre actualmente alrededor de 4 millones de millas cuadradas de superficie oceánica. El área afectada tiene aproximadamente la forma de un triángulo, con Hawai, Alaska y el sur de California como vértices.

En su apogeo, la burbuja era un poco más grande, cubriendo un área similar que se extendía por aproximadamente 4.8 millones de millas cuadradas.

Comparando la gota de 2014 y la cálida masa de agua de hoy.

Anomalías en la temperatura de la superficie del mar como se observó en septiembre de 2014 y septiembre de 2019.

(Reloj NOAA Coral Reef)

Eso hace que el evento actual sea la segunda ola de calor marino más grande desde que los científicos comenzaron a rastrear el fenómeno en 1981, dijeron investigadores de NOAA.

Los científicos notaron por primera vez la ola de calor marina del Pacífico nororiental en junio. Parece ser causado por un área persistente de baja presión en la atmósfera directamente sobre el agua tibia. Esa baja presión condujo a un debilitamiento general de los vientos oceánicos que normalmente enfrían la superficie del agua y mezclan esa capa superior con agua más fría de las profundidades, dijeron los investigadores.

Sin embargo, los científicos aún no están seguros de qué causó que el sistema de baja presión permaneciera durante tanto tiempo.

“Por lo general, se intensifica y debilita día a día. No se queda allí durante meses a la vez ”, dijo Nate Mantua , un científico investigador del Centro de Ciencias Pesqueras del Suroeste de la NOAA en Santa Cruz. "Puede que no tenga otra causa que no sea el movimiento caótico de la atmósfera".

Los científicos dijeron que no hay evidencia de que el cambio climático sea responsable de la ola de calor marina actual, aunque podría haberla exacerbado.

"El cambio climático causado por el hombre ha contribuido a un calentamiento de 1 grado Celsius en gran parte del Pacífico Norte", dijo Mantua. "Este evento es mucho más grande: al menos 3 grados centígrados en los últimos tres meses".

Los investigadores dijeron que la ola de calor marino de 2019 podría ser incluso más grande que la burbuja, pero también podría romperse.

"Con la gota, el agua estaba muy caliente hasta 200 metros e incluso por debajo de 500 metros", dijo Toby Garfield , director de la división de investigación ambiental en el Centro de Ciencias Pesqueras del Suroeste de la NOAA en La Jolla. "Con este evento en este momento, el calor solo está en los primeros 50 metros, máximo".

Si el sistema de baja presión se mueve y los vientos aumentan, la ola de calor podría simplemente romperse. Sin embargo, si los vientos se mantienen bajos y la masa de agua tibia alcanza la costa, podría tener el mismo impacto que la burbuja, dijeron los científicos.

"Es la duración y la proximidad a la costa que estamos rastreando", dijo Leising.

Por ahora, las aguas frías que brotan de las profundidades del océano han mantenido la masa de agua tibia en alta mar, pero ese fenómeno generalmente se alivia en el otoño. Los científicos dicen que ya lo han visto a lo largo de la costa del estado de Washington.

Tomará unos meses ver si sucede lo mismo más al sur.

Pacífico

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