Baked in their shells

Who guessed this would happen? The recent heat wave in the Pacific Northwest basically cooked all the coastal marine life. It’s an ugly way to die.

“Barnacles very high on the shore can survive temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit,” Harley said. “But the rocks got up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is far too hot for even those really, really tough animals to live through.”

“We saw the moon snails crawl out of their shells to get away from the heat,” biologist Teri King with Washington Sea Grant said. “We saw shore crabs die.”

Some mobile animals like crabs and sea stars may have been able to flee with the tide and stay underwater, and some deeper-residing clams like geoducks may have been able to burrow far enough into the mud to avoid lethal temperatures.

Shellfish farmers who saw the forecast for unheard-of heat could try to reduce their losses.

“We tried to get everything out that we could beforehand,” said Justin Stang with the Hama Hama Oyster Company on Hood Canal. “We told everyone, ‘Let’s get shellfish out to the restaurants before the big heatwave hits.’”

I hate to break the news to you, guy, but rushing to get your oysters to restaurants doesn’t exactly save them. But to continue our concerns about just us…

Beyond the immediate dieoffs, Teri King said she worries about longer-term effects.

“We’re still going to have nutrients running into Puget Sound that are still going to be fueling phytoplankton,” she said.

With fewer filter feeders like clams and oysters to slurp up plankton, harmful algae might be able to bloom unchecked, which could threaten the sound’s water quality and lead to fish kills.

This is bad. The animals we rely on to clean up the crap that runs off from our farms and cities have died! What shall we do?

All the little things add up. We think a heat wave that lasts a few weeks will cause us some substantial discomfort, but everything is interconnected, and the consequences will ripple outward. Pile up a few ripples, and soon enough you’ve got a killer wave that devastates more than your air conditioning bill.


  1. komarov says

    But remember, some unnamed technology will fix all our environmental problems sometime in the next three or four decades. There’s no cause for alarm, nor any need to rush any mad plans or legislation to protect the environment in the meantime. We’ll STEM our way out of this hole sooner or later, so why stop digging? Oh, and speaking of technology, it’s time to slash those research budgets again. Deficit something-or-other. Now that’s urgent…

  2. stroppy says

    Probably a progression. Degradation is happening now, but I’m not sure anybody has defined the inflection point for total system collapse…
    FWIW in general terms, the IPCC special report Climate Change and Land

  3. microraptor says

    Marcus Ranum @2: Fir trees have been dying off in the Pacific Northwest for decades, thanks to a combination of drought, disease, and beetle infestations. Climate change has been making things worse for them, but because it’s not the climate itself that’s being blamed for their deaths, it’s being ignored.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    Cue for Republicans to say “the problems are being exaggerated”.

  5. Snidely W says

    Intense selection pressure on these populations. Producing genetic bottlenecks.

    Let’s hope that some of the available genetic variability will produce some more heat tolerance in their populations.
    Even in the best case scenario, this may take some time (i.e. multiple generations).
    Fingers crossed.

  6. unclefrogy says

    all of the dead animals and plants add to the nutrient level in the water further increasing the population of bacteria and algae .resulting in further die off
    the forests of the north west are temperate rain forests when it is no longer temperate and or a rain forest the plants that are adopted to that will die.
    I have had the impression that some of the people I have talked to about what is happening think that the temperature will just go up uniformly around. I asked them why they thought that adding more energy to a system does not alter the whole system

  7. brightmoon says

    Plants have already died . Horticulture has been hit by these heatwaves pretty hard . Anyone who has a lot of houseplants will tell you that too . Even houseplants that can normally take a little heat get blasted by these heatwaves . I’m sure that some agriculture is taking a hit either because of the droughts or in the east by the incessant rain .

  8. publicola says

    And yet, the Biden admin. is approving drilling permits on federal land at a record pace. I thought Haaland would put a stop to it, but it looks like she’s climbed into bed with the oilmen. Can’t trust anyone, anymore. Drill, baby, drill until it becomes die, baby, die.

  9. says

    publicola @10: I honestly hate US politics so much. We’ve got a choice between two ecocidal, imperialist, war-mongering, racist political parties, just one has a kinder, gentler, less outwardly bigoted tone about it and that’s it. “The world’s greatest democracy” my ass.

  10. eveningchaos says

    I just recently moved to Vancouver Island from Alberta to get away from the awful political climate there. I feel such despair and sadness for what is happening here in BC with the fires and extreme heat. Still we are having to argue with people over the existence of anthropogenic climate change. We don’t have time to argue that the house is burning down while it’s clearly burning down around us. I have a 3 year old daughter who is oblivious to the mess we’re in. We’re doomed.

  11. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    We have a technology now that could make a huge dent in the problem in a few decades. It’s called nuclear power. Let’s try it.