El Nino may have a huge impact on climate and weather but also on the number of sharks seen off California’s coast. The unusually strong 2015 El Nino may be bringing more sharks to areas they normally are not in.
When the sea surface temperatures are warm, a weather pattern known as El Nino is set in motion. This pattern generally leads to more storms in places like southern California and South America. However, significantly less rainfall occurs in Australia and Indonesia.
Now marine scientists are saying there is another effect of El Nino taking place. The warmer water is allowing sharks, like Hammerheads and Great Whites, to move further north and come closer to shore looking for food.
Recently, the number of shark sightings has increased, especially in places like Monterey Bay, California, which normally never see a shark. Shark experts think the sharks are just following the food. Prey, such as sea lions and other marine wildlife, are being seen further north as well.
While surfing at Morro Strand Beach, Elinor Dempsey had a close call with a great white shark. Later, Dempsey described her encounter to local news station KSBY.
“I looked down and I saw this large shadow. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him – boom! – chomp the board”
Judging by the size of the bite, Dempsey had a close encounter with a shark estimated to be 10 to 12 feet in length.
“People have asked how scared I was. And I think what happened was I got into complete survival mode. I just concentrated on swimming as fast as I could.”
Another California encounter on the same day was not as dramatic. Kayakers in La Jolla captured video of a hammerhead shark swimming and bumping into their kayaks.
This isn’t the first time El Nino has caused an increase in shark sightings and close encounters. In 1997, a similar phenomenon occurred, however, this is the first time sharks that are usually in southern California have appeared much farther north.
As reported by Refinery 29, El Nino causing increased shark-people encounters should not be surprising. As El Nino not only creates warmer water in the northern Pacific, but it also disrupts the migrating patterns of sharks. So instead of going south towards Mexico in weak El Nino years, the sharks are staying around the California coast.
El Nino may not be entirely to blame. There are more people in the water surfing, boogie boarding, and stand-up paddle boarding. The Shark Research Committee has received 97 unprovoked shark attack reports in the 20 years with the last eight occurring on the Central Coast.
Climate experts say the 2015 El Nino is comparable to the 1997-98 pattern, which was the most powerful on record. With El Nino bringing warmer waters to the northern coast of California and more people swimming and surfing, we will most likely see a rise in shark attacks and encounters as well.
[Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images]