Eyes Over Puget Sound
The Washington State Department of Ecology distributes a monthly report combining high resolution aerial photographs with satellite and ground-truthed monitoring data for Puget Sound surface conditions.
Once a month, Washington State Department of Ecology marine scientists take to the air to obtain high-resolution aerial photo observations and gather water data at the agency's monitoring stations and via state ferry transects. This provides a visual picture of the health of Puget Sound, which they call Eyes Over Puget Sound or EOPS.
In June we observed a widespread Noctiluca bloom in Central Puget Sound, evident by bright orange streaks in the water. Noctiluca blooms in Puget Sound have lasted much longer and occurred on a much larger scale than in previous years.
The Washington State Department of Ecology has reached one hundred Eyes Over Puget Sound reports. Since 2011, Ecology has provided aerial observations and documented visible features at the surface of Puget Sound from a floatplane. This unique perspective from the air featured Puget Sound's natural beauty, its oceanographic complexity, and its ecological treasures. It also raised awareness of the challenges that the water body is facing today. Our image-rich documentation of known eutrophication indicators ranges from algal and Noctiluca blooms to macroalgae, jellyfish, and human stressors. It provides a visually captivating time-capsule of issues facing Puget Sound. The report is rich in educational and outreach material, inspired numerous news reports, and drew academic and public attention during the period of marine heat wave of the north Pacific, The Blob.
The report comes after a third year of La Nina conditions. Weak upwelling off the coast and low river flows of major rivers meant less cold, nutrient-rich, upwelled water was being entrained into Puget Sound in late summer and fall. Water conditions in Puget Sound in October were generally expected while Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor were both unusually warm and salty. Smoky air restricted our flight to Southern Puget and Central Sound where we saw blooms in terminal bays as well as patches of jellyfish. Sediment in Commencement Bay and along shorelines in Totten Inlet was unusual for a dry fall. A healthy foodweb has at its base a balance of nutrients. Explore what we found over the period of two decades of monitoring.
Low air temperatures, rain, and late snow accumulation pushed back the discharge of meltwater to Puget Sound this season. The water temperature in Puget Sound was mostly at expected levels, but cooler in South Sound by May. Central Sound saw more oxygenated conditions. This year, La Niña weather made flying for aerial photography challenging, but by June, sunny days made up for it, revealing a high number of schooling fish, unusually low tides, and a glimpse of macroalgae to come. Internal waves in Central Basin and Puget Sound, and the beauty of Puget Sound from the air, are a reminder of the unique place we live in.
The winter was cold and wet, resulting in a good snowpack in the mountains to sustain river flows into summer. In Puget Sound, saltier waters in summer transitioned to fresher conditions by fall 2021. Water temperatures in late winter 2022 are now colder and oxygen levels are high. From the air, Puget Sound looks spectacular, with few events to report. First signs of the spring bloom were visible in protected bays and passes. Port Susan and Carr Inlet already show sizable patches of drifting organic material. Small jellyfish patches were present in Eld Inlet.
The year 2021 was generally drier and warmer including a heat wave in June. Higher river flows followed a rainy and cloudy fall. In 2021, EOPS aerial images continued to capture the diversity of phenomena on the water, with support from its wonderful contributors who documented visible water quality issues across the larger Puget Sound region. With our Artists Corner and story maps on critters in the mud, we hope to continue to inspire, educate, and motivate our community to keep curious and watchful eyes over the environment.
This summer river flows were generally lower than in 2020. And in August, high air temperatures and low precipitation continued, following a drought emergency declaration in mid-July that affected also marine conditions. The higher-than-normal salinity anomaly which persisted during summer in Puget Sound marine water is, however, eroding away, and lower-than-normal oxygen conditions developed in Central Sound in the month of August. Many blooms and organic material were reported by citizens throughout summer, and by September many colorful blooms in bays across the region continue to be active. Patches of macro-algae and organic debris are still numerous in South and Central Sound and in Padilla Bay. Jellyfish are occurring in unusual places. While we document water quality issues, we are also showcasing the natural beauty of Puget Sound through photography.
Despite a La Niña, precipitation and rain have been lower since March, leaving only snow-fed rivers running high. Due to lower rainfall and warm summer temperatures the salinity of Puget Sound is now generally higher. Strong blooms and large patches of organic material and macro-algae are building up in many places and wash onto beaches. During very hot summer days, tidal mudflats and beaches can get really warm. Beach wrack can harbor increased bacteria numbers now. See SCUBA cleaning up at Redondo beach.
After a wet winter/spring transition it has been noticeably drier, warmer and sunnier. River flows are near normal levels and in Puget Sound and coastal bays salinity is increasing above normal. The spring bloom is developing but not very pronounced, yet, Noctiluca is already visible in southern Hood Canal. Suspended sediment near rivers and creeks, failing bluffs, and shellfish activities are frequent. Capturing herring spawning from the plane is informative; pilots share their observations.
We are in a weakening La Niña, coastal downwelling has lessened and we are getting out of a cold and wet stretch, hurray. In March, rivers have almost returned to normal and carry clear water. It’s a good time to go diving if you don’t mind cold water. The productive season has only started in some places and patches of jellyfish are visible. Have a look at this edition and marvel about the secrets of the dead, or mysterious sediment clouds and the oil sheen spotted near Lummi Bay.
Rivers are flowing higher than normal since 2020. Winter weather has been warmer and wetter. In marine waters, temperatures have become too cool for Northern Pacific anchovies to tolerate in North Sound. From patches of jellyfish and snow geese, to sediment and early blooms, there is more happening in the winter than you might expect. Puget Sound has many species worth showcasing such as the heart crab – a shy critter that wears its heart on its shell.
The Washington State Department of Ecology has prepared a summary review of its Eyes Over Puget Sound surface condition reports from 2020.
After a relatively warm summer and fall, and La Niña forming in the tropics, stream flows in the Puget Sound region are now relatively normal. Summer in Puget Sound produced lots of algal and organic material in the water and on beaches, which by October have disappeared. Kelp beds look strong in northern Puget Sound and the Straits; and the harvest of the annual chum salmon run is in full swing in Hood Canal. Jellyfish aggregations are visible in Budd and Sinclair Inlets — and some of the jellyfish might conceal a beast of another kind within. Oil sheens on the water are currently numerous.
A warm and dry summer ended with a smoky September due to massive wildfires that were followed by strong rain. As a consequence, muddy river plumes in Puget Sound are very visible, especially near the Nooksack River. During summer, many wonderful citizen contributions documented the large formation of organic material in Central Sound and helped us cover the gap in EOPS flight from April-September. By September when we started flying again, a few bays still had red-brown blooms. Nevertheless, schools of fish are abundant, and jellyfish are sparse, which is good news. Meet our new ocean acidification experts.
After a wet January, precipitation has been low and air temperatures have been cooler. As a result, rivers gages are lower than expected, a pattern that has continued since last year. In March we approached the coldest water temperatures of the year. Herring are spawning in Port Madison. Although these cool temperatures are good for herring, temperatures are close to the survival limits for anchovies. If you can handle these temperatures, now is a good time to go diving to benefit of good underwater visibility, just avoid windy days near wave-exposed beaches. If you are lucky, you might see the kelp humpback shrimp, a master of camouflage.
The Washington State Department of Ecology has prepared a summary review of its Eyes Over Puget Sound surface condition reports from 2019. The year started with snow, and a summer drought kept river flows low. As a result, salinities in Puget Sound were elevated year round. Warmer surface water temperatures in spring gradually extended to greater depth by late summer. The spring bloom was strong, and South Sound provided optimal conditions for anchovies that showed up in high numbers. A coccolithophore bloom stained Hood Canal turquoise, and Port Angeles and Discovery Bay were colored red-brown by strong blooms. Noctiluca and macroalgae, both known eutrophication indicators in coastal regions, were abundant in Central Sound, and extended into South Sound and Whidbey Basin. Large numbers of jellyfish occurred in Quartermaster Harbor, Sinclair Inlet, and parts of Orcas Island.
After a dry early summer followed by more than expected rain, rivers mostly remained lower than in 2018. In October air temperatures dropped, but water temperatures remained warm enough for spawning anchovies in South and Central Sound and herring and salmon optimal growth in Whidbey Basin. By the end of October many red-brown blooms vanished, yet the waters of South Sound are still green, adorned with rafts of organic debris in many places. Read what happened the year before in the Puget Sound Marine Waters 2018 Overview.
This year, air temperatures were warmer than in previous years, and this pattern is predicted to continue. Precipitation was low and is now improving, yet river flows remain low. By August, Puget Sound surface water temperatures were 0.6 °C warmer across all regions; this could have shifted the timing of optimal temperatures for some marine organisms. In September, blooms are limited to inlets. Jellyfish are abundant in Sinclair Inlet, and anchovies reside in Eld Inlet. Macroalgae are still plentiful. Learn about the benefits of beach wrack and a DNA barcoding project supported by Ecology.
In July, the recent trends of warm, dry conditions lessened; however, river flows remain low. Extensive macroalgae drifted through South and Central Sound and washed up on beaches. Macroalgae growth is fueled by excessive nutrients and sunshine. When it washes onto the beach, it is called beach wrack, and it can be a health risk to beachgoers because of bacteria it can harbor. From our aerial photography, we saw that Southern Hood Canal looks tropical because of a bloom of coccolithophores coloring the water turquoise. Schools of fish congregate in South Sound and southern Hood Canal. Jellyfish are abundant in Quartermaster Harbor.
Warm and dry conditions this spring are predicted to persist into summer, resulting in saltier and warmer than normal Puget Sound water conditions. Early upwelling and a premature melt of the snowpack means nutrient-rich ocean water likely already entered Puget Sound. This sets the stage for a lot of biological activity. From the air, it is obvious that the productive season is in full swing. We saw large algae blooms in Central Sound along with abundant Noctiluca. Huge numbers of anchovies were documented in Case Inlet and other finger inlets in South Sound, attracting hundreds of marine mammals.
Following a generally warmer and drier winter and then a cold spell in February, Puget Sound waters are cold for anchovies. The productive season is in full swing with algal blooms spotted in South Sound, Kitsap Peninsula, and Quartermaster Harbor. Jellyfish are abundant in some inlets, and Noctiluca stains the water orange in Hood Canal. We collect monthly data to keep you informed about the conditions around Puget Sound. Come into the lab and see how we assure the highest data quality from our field instruments!
Although fall and winter were warm, February brought cold snowy weather and low river flows. Despite colder air temperatures, the productive season has already started in Hood Canal and Holmes Harbor. Puget Sound waters were warmer than expected through January, and the warmest waters were in Hood Canal, possibly creating a thermal refuge for cold-sensitive species such as anchovies. We saw lots of sea lions feasting on anchovies in Case Inlet, and we may have captured some herring spawning activity. Unusual for mid-winter, we saw jellyfish patches in Eld and Budd inlets. See the new publication about ocean acidification featuring twenty-five years of our marine monitoring data!
In 2018, water temperatures were slightly warmer than normal. Aerial photos revealed many spawning herring and baitfish as well as algal blooms. We also saw abundant macro-algae, a persistent Noctiluca bloom, and countless red blooms. Were these observations related to the cool, wet spring followed by a warm, dry, and sunny summer? Or did the neutral boundary conditions in the Pacific Ocean also play a role? A full summary is available in the report.
This fall, elevated air temperatures, lower precipitation, and lower river flows generally persisted; this aligned with fall and winter climate predictions. Following a warm summer, October water temperatures dropped back to optimal ranges for many fish. Puget Sound water has cleared and visibility has increased as the productive season ends making it easier to document jellyfish and schools of fish in the inlets of South Sound. While these flights generate a lot of attention, the majority of our monitoring in Puget Sound is now done via boat!
Air temperatures have remained high with precipitation and river flows below normal, extending the summer’s unusual conditions. Water temperatures were warmer in August, perhaps too warm for bull kelp and some salmon species in South Sound. In contrast, Hood Canal, North Sound, and the San Juan Islands provide optimal growth temperatures for herring and salmon. Many terminal inlets of Puget Sound are experiencing extensive red-brown blooms. Jellyfish patches are developing in South Sound finger Inlets and remnants of floating macroalgae occur in the nearshore areas of South Sound and in Useless Bay. At times floating organic material we see from the air ends up on the shoreline were our BEACH team documents it.
Its summer! River flows are generally below normal levels in response to low precipitation and warm air temperatures. Algae blooms are causing intense red-brown colors in Bellingham and Samish Bays, as well as in some other bays. Infrared images revealed that the algal blooms are in water exceeding 15°C. These warmer waters increase the risk of harmful algal blooms if toxin-producing species are present. Large rafts of macroalgae are drifting at the surface in South and Central Sound, and are particularly extensive in Carr Inlet, Commencement Bay, and Port Madison. Our Washington Conservation Corps Intern shares her many perspectives on Puget Sound.
During June, near normal air temperatures and continued low precipitation have resulted in highly variable freshwater inputs to Puget Sound. A large Noctiluca bloom extends across the South Central Basin of Puget Sound. Coccolithophores are blooming in Hood Canal. Macroalgae is drifting as mats on the water in Port Madison, South Central Basin, and South Sound. They are also piling up on beaches in South and Central Puget Sound and Whidbey Basin. Juvenile fish are migrating out of the estuaries and meeting a complex thermal habitat. New infrared images tell the story. Meet our ocean acidification expert, Stephen Gonski.
Rainfall in May was extremely low: The third lowest amount ever recorded. Rivers are responding differently depending upon whether they received water from rain or snow, which is melting rapidly. With projected drier and warmer conditions, can the remaining snowpack maintain healthy streamflows this summer? Seawater is already getting saltier than normal in response to the lack of rain. We see algal blooms in many colors. What is that orange stuff out there? It’s a Noctiluca bloom and organic material drifting at the surface stretching from South to Central Sound and Whidbey Basin.
By March, regional impacts of large-scale climate patterns normalized, and air temperatures, precipitation, and coastal downwelling were below normal. April brought abundant rain and rivers responded. With La Niña returning to ENSO-neutral conditions, will the favorable snowpack maintain beneficial streamflows through summer? In 2018, water conditions in Puget Sound are mostly expected, except in Hood Canal where conditions only changed recently. Many rivers and field drainage ditches release sediment. A strong red-brown bloom is present in Sinclair Inlet, a bright- brown bloom in Padilla Bay (Joe Leary Slough), and a bright green bloom in Bellingham Bay. It is colorful out there! You might see our team on the water sampling sediments this month.
Large-scale climate patterns and local weather patterns are returning to more normal conditions. La Niña helped build a favorable snowpack, projected to persist well into spring due to cooler weather. As a consequence, stream flows are largely normal. In Puget Sound, we see again normal water conditions and observe early spring blooms in Central Sound, northern Hood Canal, and Whidbey Basin. Herring are spawning in Admiralty Reach and further north. Salmon Bay in Seattle continues to have frequent oil sheens on the water.
After a dry and sunny summer extending well into October, air temperatures are cooler than normal and precipitation has increased allowing rivers to regain strength. Despite a dry summer, Puget Sound is fresher this year than the past 17 years. As of September, warmer temperatures remained in South Sound. In October, surface water in the Straits however began to cool and the influence of rivers can be seen in our ferry data. Leaves drift on the water in South Sound and smaller blooms are confined to inlets as the productive season winds down. Meet our new intern and discover if Puget Sound really has sea spiders.
Warm air temperatures, abundant sunshine, and drier conditions persisted. River flows are lower in the north. Puget Sound waters are still fresher than in the past 17 years from the combination of abundant spring rain and weak upwelling bringing less salty water from the ocean. July upwelling was stronger, however. Warmer water temperatures are notable in parts of Central Sound, accompanied by large rafts of drifting macroalgae. Diverse blooms in colors of green, orange and red-brown are present in many inlets. Jellyfish abundance is lower this year. Find out how we assess if the benthos is changing.
July had warm air temperatures, sunshine, and an abundant snowpack. Previous months had higher river flows (bringing freshwater) and weak upwelling (low delivery of saltier water) which resulted in very low salinities in Puget Sound, especially in the South Sound. Water temperatures are expected and warmer in Central Sound. Above normal sunshine has made Puget Sound biologically very active! Intense and unusual blooms color Hood Canal (coccolithophores) and south sound inlets. Large mats of organic material containing macro-algae drift at the surface. Many schools of fish are visible though jellyfish were absent.
Cooler and wetter conditions early in 2017 have set the stage for a favorable supply of freshwater. River flows are all above normal due to melting of the abundant snowpack from warmer May air temperatures. This is creating significantly fresher conditions in Puget Sound surface waters. Algae blooms are limited to some yellow-green blooms growing in bays near the Kitsap Peninsula and blooms near estuaries of the Skagit, Stillaguamish, and Puyallup Rivers. Red blooms are present in rivers feeding into Willapa Bay. Also see what is “blooming” in the sediments of Puget Sound.
The year 2016 in pictures: After two years of very warm air and record high water temperatures starting with the Blob (2015) and followed by El Nino (2016), temperatures have fallen and remain slightly warmer than normal in Puget Sound. Very low summer river flows (e.g., Fraser River) reflect climatic predictions for the NW. Record temperatures and low salinities occurred alongside observations of abundant jellyfish, floating macro-algae, and Noctiluca blooms. Surprisingly, only South Sound developed very low summer oxygen levels in 2016. In the fall, La Niña came with a punch, rain increased, and air temperatures dropped. Will this be an unusual La Niña?
ENSO is in a cold phase (La Niña) and it is wetter and warmer than normal. Strong precipitation in October greatly improved Puget Sound streamflows. At the coast, we had strong downwelling. As a result, water temperatures, salinities, and oxygen in Puget Sound are returning to normal. While surface water in Puget Sound has cooled, it is still warmer than in the Straits. Surprisingly, masses of suspended sediment occurred east of Steamboat Island in Totten Inlet. We continue to see large jellyfish aggregations in finger Inlets of South Sound and slowly fading red-brown blooms.
September is jellyfish season and they are everywhere in southern Puget Sound! Sunny, warm, and dry conditions promoted strong late-summer plankton blooms in colors of red, green, and brown, now widespread in many bays. In contrast, Central Sound looks clear with low algal activity. Southern Puget Sound has large floating mats of organic material and developed lower oxygen in August. Meet the Critter of the Month - The Sweet Potato Sea Cucumber.
In July, conditions were normalizing, yet river flows remained lower, continuing into August. July also saw lower oxygen appearing in southern Puget Sound. By August, jellyfish are occurring in high numbers in Eld and Budd Inlet. South Puget Sound has Noctiluca drifting at the surface in large orange lines in many places and red-brown blooms widespread in finger inlets, as well as in Sinclair Inlet. Central Sound surface-water temperatures are high, still in the 60s, and algae are abundant. See what we are measuring to understand ocean acidification in Puget Sound.
Through June, air temperatures and sunlight were higher than normal. Recent rain generally improved river flows. However, the Fraser river flow remains extremely low, reducing water exchange with the ocean. Water temperatures are still breaking records, yet dissolved oxygen levels are normal. Coastal bays are influenced by upwelling and exhibit lower oxygen and higher salinities. Puget Sound algae are thriving with blooms observed in many South Sound inlets. Macro-algae is seen piling up on beaches and drifting in Central Sound. Jellyfish smacks are numerous in Eld and Budd Inlets. Our fliers notice seals hanging out at the beach!
Record-breaking warmer and fresher water in Puget Sound. May-June conditions are more unusual than last year. Recent rain brought river flows close to normal but water exchange in Puget Sound remains weak due to low Fraser River flow. Phytoplankton blooms and organic material are visible in some areas of Central and South Sound but not in others. Noctiluca, while absent in Central Basin, was reported in unusual places. Jelly fish occur only in some south sound bays. Follow our BEACH program kick off, discover the Stinkworm, and find good underwater visibility for diving.
Spring air temperatures are higher - it has been sunny and dry. The snowpack is quickly disappearing as temperatures are up to 7 °F warmer at higher elevations. Snowmelt-fed rivers are running very high. How does this affect water quality in Puget Sound? A strong spring phytoplankton bloom extends across Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Water temperatures are still higher than normal and jellyfish are already numerous in southern inlets. The high biological activity is causing organic material to drift at the surface and wash onto beaches. Do you know how fast a Sand Star can move?
Despite warmer air temperatures, normal snowpack in the mountains suggest that summer freshwater flows into Puget Sound might be higher than last year. As of April, the spring plankton bloom has extended across Central and South Puget Sound. Ferry data shows chlorophyll increasing after March 25 and expanding across the area. With water temperatures above normal as a carry-over from 2015, jellyfish patches are numerous in inlets of South Sound and in Sinclair Inlet, unusual for this time of year. Check out the tiny burrowing ostracods as well as our Washington Conservation Corps Intern analyzing seawater oxygen.
In response to warm and wet conditions, rivers have been running high. Salinity in Puget Sound is notably lower. Below a cooler surface, water temperatures remain high, especially in Hood Canal. We still see numerous jellyfish patches in Puget Sound inlets. Phytoplankton blooms are going strong in Hood Canal and Henderson Inlet, and picking up elsewhere. Many places showed long stretches of suspended sediments nearshore, a sign of potential shore erosion. Check out the critters inhabiting the sediments of Puget Sound.
January air temperatures and precipitation were above normal as El Nino conditions prevail. This winter our snowpack is in much better shape, though we’ve lost some snow from the stint of warm weather. More rain and higher river flows have lowered salinities in Puget Sound and coastal bays. Nonetheless, water temperatures in Puget Sound remain at record-breaking highs. Jellyfish patches are numerous in finger inlets of South Sound and signs of phytoplankton blooms are visible in coastal bays. When conditions limit flying, Ecology’s research vessel gets the job done.
The year 2015 in pictures: Jellyfish patches persisted through the entire year in response to the exceptionally warm water caused by the Blob. Sediment loads are high as snow melts fast in the winter of 2015. Unexpected phytoplankton species occur in some bays in spring. Noctiluca, jellyfish and macro-algae appear in high numbers when rivers drop to record-low flows in early summer. Low river flows slow the renewal of in Puget Sound throughout summer and fall and jellyfish patches reach record highs.
As coastal and regional conditions gradually normalize in response to a fading Blob and increased rain, the big question remains. Will the snow in the mountains stay there or come down prematurely and lower salinity in Puget Sound like last winter? Cascade snowpack is currently below normal. The El Niño at the equator is still brewing! Major rivers transport large amounts of suspended sediments and soil into Puget Sound, also seen in our ferry sensor data. Our flight team gets in the pool for safety training.
Puget Sound is starting to normalize in response to fall conditions with cooler air temperatures, rain, and recovering river flows. We are seeing fewer algal blooms, jellyfish, and macro-algae as salinities become more normal. Yet warm waters persist and El Nino and the Blob are likely to affect Puget Sound throughout the winter. The Nisqually River fared better through the drought than other rivers and best management practices have been improving its water quality. EOPS and ferry monitoring gain recognition with a national award for innovation!
Air temperatures are warm and Puget Sound continues to show record high water temperatures. Some rain has returned to our region, yet river flows remain unusually low. Puget Sound is saltier than normal allowing oxygen-rich surface waters to more easily mix to greater depths. Lower oxygen was measured only in the Coastal Bays, Hood Canal, and South Sound. Large jellyfish aggregations continue in South Sound, the Kitsap Peninsula, and East Sound (Orcas Island). Sediment plumes in Bellingham Bay form unique patterns. Warm waters and sunny conditions fostered green tides, raising a stink along some local beaches.
Unusually warm water temperatures continue in central and south Puget Sound. River flows remain lower than normal, especially the Fraser and Skagit rivers. Thus, with estuarine circulation much weaker, Puget Sound waters stay put. Mats of organic debris persist in Central Sound near Port Madison. Red-brown and brown blooms are now very strong in southern inlets and jellyfish patches are exceptionally numerous and large. Explore media coverage of unusual Puget Sound conditions including jellyfish.
Unusually warm water temperatures continue in central and south Puget Sound while Willapa Bay returns to expected water temperatures as a result of stronger coastal upwelling. Extensive mats of organic debris develop in many places, particularly in Central Sound overlapping with a fading Noctiluca bloom. King County confirms Noctiluca and shares plankton species information. Red-brown and brown blooms are going strong in southern inlets and around the San Juan Islands. Our inspiring WCC Intern gets on boats, into the air, and to the lab.
Record warm water temperatures and low oxygen continue in Ecology’s Puget Sound marine monitoring station network. Record low stream flows result in visibly low river discharge into Puget Sound, in particular for the Puyallup River. Abundant sun and unusually warm water temperatures fuel phytoplankton blooms in many areas. Bright orange Noctiluca blooms are surfacing in the Commencement Bay area and around Port Madison. Finger inlets of South Sound support extensive patches of jellyfish.
Warm waters from “The Blob” in Puget Sound combine with drought conditions as warm air has left little snow to feed the rivers. Water temperatures throughout Puget Sound are the highest in 25 years and oxygen is exhibiting record lows. High suspended sediment in the north is still coming in from the Fraser River. Otherwise, the surface waters appear very clear due to recent low river flows and weak blooming activity. A red bloom is present in Sinclair Inlet and in some confined bays. Patches of jellyfish, however, are going strong in inlets of South Sound and Sinclair Inlet. What does this all mean for salmon? Get to know some intertidal critters!
Puget Sound is feeling the heat! Starting in October, temperatures are the highest on our record since 1989. Salinity and oxygen are much lower. Recent rains have rivers flowing high. Aerial views show dramatic sediment loads from rivers mixing into otherwise blue water. But don’t be fooled – by summer, snow-fed rivers are expected to run significantly below normal, with implications for Puget Sound water quality. For details, explore the special Drought Effects segment. Spring blooms are visible only in some confined bays. Jellyfish are going strong in finger inlets of South Sound. Glimpse Puget Sound’s glacial history.
The ocean and air remain warm with sunshine and dry weather across the region. As a result, Puget Sound is a lot warmer going into the new year. Hood Canal is responding with temperatures warmer than previous measurements, breaking its low temperature stint. First signs of growing phytoplankton are coloring the water green. Patches of jellyfish are overwintering in finger inlets of South Sound. Tidal fronts and suspended sediment are visible amidst the stunning San Juan Islands scenery. A sediment-rich water mass is trapped in Rosario Strait. Check out the South Sound Estuarium and the many reasons we love Puget Sound!
Warm air and water temperatures and offshore winds have persisted since fall. Numerous and sizable jelly fish patches are still present in southern inlets of Puget Sound. Coastal waters were colored in shades of gray to brown by sediment and humic substances. Phytoplankton blooms were restricted to the surf zone. We were treated to artful views of meandering sloughs and gullies on exposed mud flats during low tide in Willapa Bay, interspersed with the geometry of shellfish management. Brown pelicans: a story of recovery.
The year 2014 in pictures: In 2014, Puget Sound and Hood Canal behaved distinctly different in temperature and dissolved oxygen. In Puget Sound, generally warmer conditions, abundant and diverse algal blooms, and large pools of organic material persisted along with lower oxygen, high jellyfish abundances, and a lot of suspended sediment. On the other hand, Hood Canal was colder, more oxygenated, and algae blooms were rare. People and planes: past and present.
A recent cold spell hits Puget Sound lowlands, interrupting this year’s warmer air temperatures. The warm ocean coincides with new maximum water temperatures observed throughout Puget Sound in October! Hood Canal’s higher dissolved oxygen and cold water anomalies are disappearing. November brings cold water from Whidbey Basin into Puget Sound with moderate levels of chlorophyll fluorescence. Abundant smacks of jellyfish in finger inlets of South Sound observed from our flight. Red-brown blooms remain strong in smaller bays of South Sound. Visible suspended sediments in the coastal estuaries from rain, wind, and waves. Playing in the water? Visit our BEACH program.
At the end of summer, water temperatures are still high, and salinities and dissolved oxygen are low in Puget Sound. Both sea surface temperature and upwelling off the coast are elevated (PDO and Upwelling indices) and the the Fraser River flow is low. This combination makes it an interesting fall. Very dense and large patches of jellyfish appear in finger inlets of South Sound. Red-brown blooms also remain strong in South Sound.
Sunshine and warmth continue into September. Upwelling is higher, yet low Fraser River flow reduces the likelihood of low-oxygen water moving into Puget Sound. Dissolved oxygen remains relatively high in Hood Canal and is lower elsewhere. Satellites show relatively warm water in the Strait of Georgia and Whidbey Basin and an extensive offshore bloom. Water temperatures also remain high in South Sound were red-brown plankton blooms and large smacks of jellyfish adorn the water surface. Explore what frequent blooms in smaller bays can tell us.
Sunshine and warm temperatures return after last week’s intense rain. The Puyallup and Nisqually Rivers are flowing high. Red-brown blooms and numerous patches of jellyfish remain strong in South Sound, Sinclair and Dyes Inlets, and Bellingham Bay, with brown-green blooms in Whidbey Basin. Macro-algae surface debris is very high in South and Central Sound. Hood Canal remains cooler but Puget Sound-wide temperatures are now warmer and less salty. Sea surface temperatures are above 15 °C, conditions favorable for some pathogens, and harmful algae blooms. Read about super colonies of by-the-wind sailors washing up on our shores.
Warmer and sunnier days result in higher than normal river flows from the Skagit and Nisqually. Biological activity in the water column is high. Abundant organic surface debris in Hood Canal, Padilla Bay, and many Inlets. Red-brown blooms in South Sound, Discovery Bay, and regions of Bellingham Bay. Different blooms in Skagit Bay, Padilla Bay, and Sinclair Inlet. Jelly fish are numerous in all southernmost South Sound Bays. Hood Canal remains cold but Puget Sound-wide temperatures are now warmer and less salty. Data from the Victoria Clipper and our sampling in the Strait provides important information on water exchange with the ocean.
Onshore winds have been keeping the Puget Sound lowlands cool and cloudy, but sunlight and warmer temperatures are returning. Large organic mats of surface debris in Hood Canal, Padilla Bay, and Lay Inlet; many are macro-algae. Strong red-brown blooms in Discovery Bay, East Sound, and parts of Georgia Basin. Sediment-rich water north of San Juan Islands. Jelly fish are increasing in numbers. Colder, saltier conditions in early 2014 and lower oxygen in Whidbey Basin, Central, and South Sound continue. Hood Canal remains unusually cold. At our Mukilteo mooring, temperatures are similar to last year, but salinity and dissolved oxygen follow the Puget Sound-wide trend. Guest feature on phytoplankton monitoring, plus an in-depth look at our mooring program. Our technology now hitching a ride on the state ferries!
The weather changed from cool, cloudy and southerlies, to sunny warm conditions and light northerly winds on Mother’s Day. At the water surface, blooms and large debris lines occur in Bellingham, Padilla, and Samish Bays, Hood Canal, East Sound, and the Straits, as well as the finger inlets of South Sound. Large amounts of sediment-laden water from Port Susan are flowing into Central Basin. Turquoise water mixing to the surface in places around the San Juan Islands. After some trouble-shooting of the hardware and communication system, we will resume collecting Victoria Clipper data next week. Meet Eyes Under Puget Sound: Sediment Monitoring Program at Ecology.
Air temperatures have been slightly warmer and river flows are higher. Blooms are present only in Whidbey Basin and isolated bays. The water column otherwise is relatively clear. Sediment rich water is entering from the Stillaguamish River. Debris lines were visible in Hood Canal and North Sound. Multiple reported oil sheens seen in Lake Washington Ship Canal. Generally, the year 2014 started colder and saltier throughout Puget Sound. Oxygen is lower in Whidbey Basin, Central and South Sound, but higher in Hood Canal. Upwelling favorable conditions stimulate a spring phytoplankton bloom off the Washington coast.
River flows are above normal and air temperatures are increasing slowly. The spring phytoplankton bloom is slow to develop with visible blooms limited to smaller bays such as Sequim and Bellingham Bays. Noctiluca observed in East Sound on Orcas Island, coinciding with high numbers of jellyfish. Debris lines are mostly confined to Hood Canal. Pockets of colder water observed in Central Sound and Hood Canal, likely from the colder, saltier conditions that developed during the winter in the northern regions. Oxygen is variable yet close to expected ranges. Sizable oil sheens were sighted in Gig Harbor and Carr Inlet.
Multiple algal blooms in South Sound and Main Basin. Ferry and satellite images confirm center of algae bloom in the Main Basin and indication of a bloom in Carr Inlet. Oxygen levels are increasing on moorings. Oil sheen in Colvos Passage.
Air temperatures have fallen due to unusually weak northern winds bringing in cold air. A dry beginning to winter causes low river flows. This dry winter brings new Puget Sound conditions with colder saltier waters observed in the northern regions. Oxygen has stabilized again within expected ranges. Suspended sediments along wind and wave exposed beaches add artful brushstrokes to the Puget Sound waterscape. Jellyfish are still going strong in Eld Inlet. Oil seen leaking from a boat in Commencement Bay and Ecology’s Spills Program responds. Our intern, Clifton, brings renewed passion to monitoring!
The year 2013 in pictures: Low oxygen conditions persisted from January into August and broke a two-year anomaly of more favorable water quality conditions (lower temperature and salinity and higher dissolved oxygen). Dramatic Noctiluca blooms appeared one month earlier than normal (May), lasted for two months, and coincided with lower oxygen. Large jellyfish patches persisted over the winter but then were less visible for the rest of the year. Large drifting algal mats appeared in August.
After weeks of clouds and warmer air, blue skies and cold temperatures set in. Strong tidal fronts and sediment-rich brackish plumes leave Whidbey Basin and move into Admiralty Reach. A pod of Orcas follows the edge of the plume heading north! Red-brown blooms continue in Henderson, Eld, and northern Budd Inlets. Long organic debris lines are numerous in northern Budd Inlet, Hood Canal, and in Central Sound north of Edmonds (Triple Junction). Conditions in the water column in Puget Sound continue to normalize after seven months of lower oxygen. Water is very clear for this time of the year, particularly in the north.
Puget Sound conditions are normalizing after seven months of lower oxygen. Calm, dry, cool, and foggy mornings abruptly changed on October 28 to sun and strong northerly winds. Red-brown blooms and abundant jellyfish in south Puget Sound inlets appeared as we flew to the coast. Blooms were still visible near ocean beaches and inner bays. Grays Harbor had abundant surface debris with green algae in North Bay. We spotted red-brown blooms in rivers and sloughs in Willapa Bay, as well as schooling fish near sandbanks. Many patches of suspended sediment appeared in shallow water unrelated to tidal currents and remain unexplained.
Sun and high air temperatures warrant en route ozone measurements for model validations. A furry visitor takes a rest on the float plane. See the spotlight on our pilot, Joe Leatherman. High river flows lead to striking fronts of turquoise-colored water carrying glacial flour in many northeastern regions. Satellite and aerial images show widespread phytoplankton blooms in Whidbey Basin, Hood Canal, South Puget Sound, and West Bay of Orcas Island. Numerous large debris patches are observed in Hood Canal, Central Sound, and South Sound Inlets. After two years of colder temperatures and higher oxygen, Puget Sound waters are returning to expected or lower dissolved oxygen levels.
Warm air temperatures and increases in flows from glacier-fed rivers give rise to dramatic images in the San Juan Islands. Warm surface temperatures in South Sound foster abundant red-brown blooms in southern inlets. Similar blooms are happening in the inlets of the Kitsap Peninsula. Large drifting algal mats in Central Sound, Sinclair Inlet, Hood Canal and Padilla Bay will likely end up on nearby shorelines soon. Jellyfish abundance has dropped. This year, dissolved oxygen levels in Puget Sound waters quickly decrease to levels of the previous decade.
Abundant sunshine gives rise to large algal mats in South Sound, Hood Canal, and Sinclair Inlet. Red-brown algal blooms dominate in Budd, Totten, and Eld Inlets and jellyfish begin to increase. Northerly winds push algal blooms from Whidbey and Central Basins past Seattle and a bloom in northern Hood Canal southward. Satellite thermal imagery shows patterns of near-surface mixing and injection of nutrients into the surface layer. Glacial-fed rivers deliver glacial flour into Commencement Bay, stratifying the water and supporting different colored phytoplankton blooms (green, brown, and red). Since the beginning of 2013, dissolved oxygen is dropping below expected values.
A stunning view of a second large Noctiluca bloom captures the attention of many living near Puget Sound. Favorable conditions support several regional phytoplankton blooms. Red-brown blooms in Port Townsend, Discovery Bay and Bellingham Bay. Large algal mats or organic material particularly in Samish Bay. Jellyfish patches increasing in Budd, Totten and Eld Inlets.
After 2-years of conditions favorable for water quality, with colder temperatures and higher oxygen, Puget Sound water conditions are closer to expected again. This year phytoplankton blooms and seasonal oxygen maxima are notable, while extensive Noctiluca blooms showed up early following a period high freshwater inputs and milder weather conditions. The Fraser River sediment influence is very strong north of San Juan Islands and warm, fresh water is entering Central Puget Sound from Whidbey Basin. In the past few weeks river flows and air temperatures have been higher than normal and now are decreasing.
For the last week sunshine was low and rivers and air temperatures have been higher than expected due to prevailing southerly winds. Heavy rains have resulted in long foam lines and large river plumes that are filled with sediment. Jelly fish patches have persisted through the winter in smaller bays. Are higher oxygen conditions seen over the last 2 years starting to disappear? We were busy in 2012 and spooled out 37 miles of CTD line to explore the depths of our estuaries!
Lower than expected air temperatures and sunshine are now both increasing; rivers are generally running high. Willapa Bay unfolds its beauty from a bird’s-eye view. The spring phytoplankton bloom is picking up in Puget Sound. A large red-orange-brown bloom persists in southern Hood Canal at a scale sufficient for the MODIS satellite to pick up. Jellyfish are still going strong in southern inlets. Ocean climate indices (PDO, NPGO and Upwelling Index) explain much of the variability in Puget Sound temperature, salt and oxygen. Nutrients, however, are steadily increasing while sub-surface algal pigments (chlorophyll a) are declining!
The weather has been relatively cloudy, warm and dry. We found less debris in the water but saw several large tidal eddies and suspended sediment plumes. Jellyfish continue to go strong this winter. We also observed early algae blooms in Hood Canal and Eld Inlet as well as multiple oil sheens in Seattle waterways. Listen to our marine flight technician discuss EOPS on the radio.
The pattern of colder and fresher Puget Sound water persists. Jellyfish aggregations continue to persist in Budd Inlet. Debris lines are numerous and long. There are multiple oil sheens in Seattle waterways. CDOM (colored dissolved organic matter) sensor and en route ferry thermosalinograph provide an important tracer for freshwater entering Puget Sound from Whidbey Basin.
The weather has been warm, cloudy with weak winds from the south. Surface water temperatures range from 8.5-9.5°C. River flows are dropping below expected levels, yet the seasonal increase in freshwater can be clearly seen. Debris lines are numerous near river estuaries. Algal biomass is down but jellyfish aggregations continue to go strong in terminal inlets.
Temperatures range from 9-11°C. Red-brown blooms and jellyfish continue in terminal inlets. Low fluorescence throughout Central Sound and Admiralty Inlet. Since 2011 much colder and much fresher and oxygen levels are up.
Low to moderate fluorescence in northern Puget Sound. Red-brown blooms, and large jellyfish aggregations in the inlets of South and Central Sound. Dry weather and decreased thickness of the freshwater layer in Possession Sound.
River flows are below normal. Temperatures in Puget Sound are 12-14 °C. Extensive red-brown blooms in Inlets of South and Central Sound. Jellyfish are increasing in numbers. Low-moderate fluorescence in Central Sound. In Possession Sound dissolved oxygen decreased by 1.1 mg/L.
Temperatures in Main Basin drop below 15 °C. Marco algae in Central Sound. Red-brown blooms in South Sound Inlets and parts of Central Sound. Jellyfish patches increasing in size in Sinclair and Budd Inlets. Low-Moderate fluorescence and turbidity in Main Basin and Admiralty Inlet.
In the south a persistent marine layer over the lowlands keep conditions cooler. River flows are high. Water temperatures approach 15 °C. High fluorescence in the Main Basin Extensive red-brown blooms in South Sound. In Whidbey Basin, higher DO and algal bloom in surface waters.
Cool weather and river flows above normal. A bonanza of red-orange Noctiluca streaks in Central Basin with reduced fluorescence south of Edmonds. Strong red-brown bloom in Case Inlet. Higher DO levels in Whidbey Basin surface water. Oil sheen in Sinclair Inlet.
Warm, sunny weather with higher-than-normal river flows. Temperatures above 13 °C . Strong algal blooms South Sound and Central Basin and most smaller bays. Dissolved oxygen levels in surface waters decrease despite high algae production. Abundant debris lines. Oil sheen in Lake Union.
Warm, sunny weather and higher-than-normal river flows . The freshwater layer in Whidbey Basin increased by 2 m. Abundant surface debris and algae blooms in river-fed inlets in South and Central Sound. Puyallup plume extends into Quartermaster Harbor. New thermosalinograph installed on ferry.
Cool, wet, cloudy weather with higher-than-normal river flows. Spectacular river plumes, suspended sediment and wind extend far into the waterways. Surface debris abundant. The freshwater layer in Whidbey Basin increased by 2 m matching high precipitation.
Little sunshine, cold air temperatures, and higher river flows. Freshwater plumes extend far into the waterways. Chilly surface temperatures in Central Sound. First blooms begin in South Sound. A thinner freshwater layer at Mukilteo suggests a low discharge of the Snohomish river.
Cloudy, slightly warmer-than-average air temperatures, and higher-than normal river flows. Freshwater plumes extend far into the waterways. Jellyfish from fall still persist in Budd Inlet. Chilly surface temperatures and pulses of high CDOM waters in Central Sound.
Less rain and sun and colder temperatures. Conditions are challenging for crew and instruments. Large jelly fish patches in Inlets: Budd, Sinclair, and Case. Central Sound algae bloom continues as temperatures fall and oxygen is still decreasing at places. Freshwater water moves into Central Sound.
Good conditions to be in the field Less rain, average temperatures and not much sun. Temperatures continue to cool and blooms fade. Algae bloom still in northern Quartermaster Harbor. Jelly fish in Budd Inlet.
Morning fog shows that fall is here! Warm afternoons with colder nights make cooler-than-normal conditions. Temperatures decrease and blooms fade as the summer growing season comes to an end. Brown-red blooms still in Carr Inlet and Budd Inlet. Green bloom near Squaxin Island.
Warm temperatures, reminiscent of summer. Brown-red blooms in Carr Inlet and Budd Inlet. Macro-algae aggregations in Central Sound. Green bloom NE of Bainbridge Island. High surface fluorescence throughout northern Central Sound; highest values east of Port Madison. Oil spill in the South Sound.
A Kaleidoscope of colors. Red-brown blooms in South Sound and Quartermaster Harbor, large patches of macro-algae in Central Sound. Latest bloom in Central Sound shows signs of fading as waters begin to clear. Oxygen is beginning to decline.
Summer is here! Surface water temperatures have warmed to 14-15 °C. Widespread algae bloom in Main Basin. Puyallup River discharge is very large. Extensive phytoplankton blooms in Central and South Sound, large patches and strands of macroalgae in South Sound/southern Central Sound.
A particularly great day for the coast flight. Extensive Noctiluca bloom (confirmed by microscopy on 6-21-2011) in Central Basin of Puget Sound, red brown and turquoise blooms in South Sound. Decreasing dissolved oxygen (DO) values at Mukilteo and Manchester mooring stations.
Warmer and sunnier conditions give rise to enhanced oxygen production and algae growth in Whidbey and Central Basin. Clear skies and water from Whidbey Basin has stimulated a large algae blooms. Whidbey Basin water is turbid with abundant dissolved organic matter.
Large blooms in South Sound and Main Basin with abundant macro-algae. Very complex surface water masses that meet at a triple point in Main Basin. Widespread algae bloom in Main Basin; surface water temperatures warmed in the last few days to 13-14 °C. Dissolved oxygen levels remain high.