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The “Bruce Lee Effect” and Encounters with Sharks!

Seacliff State Beach Pier

Seacliff State Beach Pier

Tom Stienstra, the amazing outdoor writer for SFGate.com (San Francisco Chronicle) has been looking at the increased number of encounters with sharks, especially Great Whites, that seem to be occurring with the developing El Niño in the Pacific. His article includes a slideshow of shark images and one still photograph of a shark that looks surprisingly like “Bruce.”

Scientists, being scientists (Remember, I used to “walk among them.”), and in order to make their jobs more interesting, have NAMED the developing El Niño!

Much like naming a hurricane, scientists have named the coming El Niño “Bruce Lee.” As the week ended, water temperatures ranged from 74.8 degrees in South San Francisco Bay at Redwood City to 61.5 degrees 17 miles off San Francisco, 62.4 degrees off Cape Mendocino near the mouth of the Klamath River, and 65 degrees at Carmel in Monterey Bay.

As a Northern California event, these water temperatures are anywhere from 7 to 10 degrees warmer than most non-El Niño years. As a hemispheric event, a landmark plus-3.4 degree average from Mexico to Alaska was verified last week.

The largest number of great white sightings along the Bay Area coast are from mid-September to early October. Warm sea temperatures and a rich marine food chain this summer have spiked the numbers of marine mammals on the Northern California coast and, in turn, may be responsible for a high number of great white sharks who eat them.

Yes, scientists actually go out and MEASURE water temperatures. They don’t just believe what the pretty blonde commentators on Fox News tell them. :-)

Incidentally, at this point I should tell you about an app for that, for following Great White Sharks on your iPhone. :-) I always tell school kids (who are, by the way, FASCINATED by Great White Sharks) about the app, “Shark Net” (developed by scientists at Stanford) that lets you track sonar-tagged Great Whites off the California Coast. It might be better than, for example, jumping off the Seacliff State Beach Pier (image above) into a cluster of 15 of them that was recently reported in that location! :-)

So… read Tom Stienstra’s article, including THIS paragraph about the remnants of a harbor seal that washed up near the mouth of the Klamath River last week:

A harbor seal with a 28-inch bite wound was found, measured and photographed last week on the Northern California coast by field scout Teri Schultz. The rare find means that a great white in the 15- to 18-foot range was the attacker.

Stienstra wrote about an EARLIER 18-foot Great White that was estimated, by an expert, to weigh 4,500-5,000 pounds and had a head that was 4 feet wide.

I usually stay out of the water until the beautiful weather of February, after most of the Great Whites have moved out to very deep water. :-)

-Bill at

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