El Niño Sends Humpback Whales Far Up the Columbia River
It’s a sight not many around Astoria, Oregon have ever seen before but one that sparks a question as to why. Humpback whales have been spotted in the Columbia River, around eight miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. These mammals retreat to the cooler waters of the Northern Pacific every summer to feed. It is a weather phenomenon that is being called the culprit of this rare behavior.
El Niño has been causing the ocean waters of the Pacific to be warmer than average. El Niño is the periodic warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific. This phenomenon has had a slight warming impact on sea-surface temperatures as far north as Alaska. The Columbia River Basin is right along the western Washington and Oregon coast, where currently ocean waters are running about 1° – 2° above average. The warmer ocean temperatures have caused the food source of the humpback whales – anchovies, krill and other small schooling fish – to retreat into cooler water, and in turn, the whales are following the food source.
For WeatherNation: Meteorologist, Tracey Anthony
(Video: Oregon Public Radio)