Warmer waters put wildlife under deadly stress along Pacific Coast

Freaky environmental anomalies along the Pacific Coast from central California to British Columbia may devastate the region’s wildlife, scientists say. Ocean temperatures in the area are 2 to 5 degrees higher than usual this summer; no one’s sure why, but scientists suspect a lack of northerly winds during the spring stalled the usual seasonal upwelling of cold water, which brings important nutrients to the ocean’s surface. Without them, the marine food chain may be breaking down. “In 50 years, this has never happened,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oceanographer Bill Peterson. Death rates for Brandt’s cormorants on the Washington state coast are disturbingly high, and juvenile salmon numbers on the Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia coasts have been 20 to 30 percent lower than expected in June and July. Scientists are largely baffled, but Peterson says many suspect global warming may be involved.