Scientists watching closely as ocean temperatures return to normal levels

By Ian Holmes
August 10, 2016 - 3:21pm

NANAIMO — Ocean temperatures are returning to more normal levels, but scientists aren't sure what that will mean for marine life.

Peter Chandler, physical oceanographer at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Victoria, says record-breaking temperatures of upwards of four degrees warmer than normal last summer have not been the case this year.

He says temperatures are now only slightly above normal, as the warm water blob which rose to prominence last summer has leveled off.

“Since about mid-May, these temperatures have started to fall down to more normal conditions. They are no longer setting warm water records,” said Chandler.

What these dramatic shifts in ocean temperatures will mean for the overall ecosystem, including the food chain, remains unclear, according to Chandler.

He says the prized Pacific salmon, for example, has had a rough ride with its traditional food supply chased out by a warming ocean.

“As the waters begin to cool and become more normal, so will the food for the salmon, and it's expected that will then provide a better situation for them to sustain themselves.”

He says much more monitoring, research and analysis is required to understand the impact of large variances in Pacific Ocean temperatures.

Scientists attribute a warming ocean to the introduction of several non-native species to West Coast waters, including tropical fish and green sea turtles.

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