Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Diving into warmer waters

Summer is officially here, and it is bringing record-breaking Puget Sound water temperatures along for the ride. What could this mean for you? First, join us for the BEACH program kick-off in the June Eyes Over Puget Sound report.

Click to view the June report here

Is my beach safe for swimming?

Each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the Washington State BEACH Program monitors saltwater beaches to make sure conditions are safe for swimming and other recreational activities.

Media joined the monitoring teams last month for a kick-off to find out more about the condition of our favorite beaches and how to help keep them healthy.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for beach water quality updates, or visit our BEACH Program website for more information on beaches near you.

Visibility conditions for divers

Our monitoring team brings you a new feature: water visibility at different locations around Puget Sound. If you’re thinking of grabbing your scuba gear this weekend, take a look at our map to find out where underwater visibility is highest or lowest.

Visibility might be lower than in previous months. This new section will eventually deliver present conditions. We’d love to hear your feedback on it!

What does recent rain mean for water quality in Puget Sound?

Fortunately, rivers are now flowing at higher levels compared to last year’s drought. Still, we are missing a lot of the snow to support summer flows.

Visit our Flickr album for more photos from this month's Eyes Over Puget Sound report.

Despite recent rainfall the Fraser River has not been flowing nearly as high as last year, a year of drought. Why does this matter? The Fraser River, the longest river within British Columbia, is also the largest freshwater source for the Salish Sea.

Low flow in Fraser River means the water isn’t circulating as much as the Salish Sea does in normal years. Stagnant, or motionless, water means warm temperatures will continue, pollution will increase, and jellyfish could continue to appear in large numbers.

What about the jellies?

During sea plane flights over Puget Sound, we also observed many “smacks,” or groups of jellyfish. You can see high numbers of them in Eld and Totten Inlets in the South Sound region.

Phytoplankton blooms and large mats of floating organic material also showed up east of Bainbridge Island and Port Madison, as well as Quartermaster Harbor near Vashon Island.

Ew…what’s that smell?

Plug your nose before meeting our latest Critter of the Month! The Pacific Stinkworm, Travisia pupa, smells like rotting garlic when disturbed. 

Though not as easy on the eyes as last month’s critter, Travisia pupa plays an important role on the muddy ocean bottom. The Pacific Stinkworm, also known as the Pupa Utility Worm, helps aerate material on the ocean floor by burrowing and turning over sediment as it feeds. Visit our Critter of the Month blog series for more.

What's Eyes Over Puget Sound?

Eyes Over Puget Sound combines high-resolution photo observations with satellite images, ferry data from travel between Seattle and Victoria BC, and measurements from our moored instruments. We use a seaplane to travel between our monitoring stations because they are so far apart. Once a month, we take photos of Puget Sound water conditions and turn those out, along with data from our stations, in the monthly Eyes Over Puget Sound report.

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