This year's El Niño is having a number of effects on the ocean: some odd, others potentially devastating. But if you haven't thought about how El Niño could affect you personally, this news might make you pay more attention.
Last week, a pair of beach goers in southern California encountered a yellow-bellied sea snake on the beach. The 2-foot long snake was found washed ashore, apparently trying to find his way back to the ocean. Ocean animals getting stuck on the beach isn't exactly news, but a few of the circumstances of this encounter actually make it super weird.
Firstly, yellow-bellied sea snakes are found in warm waters around the world, rarely as far north as North America. Last week's finding, according to ABC, actually broke records as the northern-most point a member of the species has ever been seen on the Pacific Coast of North America. T
he unusual location of this particular yellow-bellied sea snake is believed to have been caused by the Pacific's waters being unusually warm as a result of El Niño—and for that reason scientists say more sightings of these sea snakes are likely to happen this year.
Another fascinating element of the encounter is that yellow bellied sea snakes are incredibly poisonous. They typically use their venom to kill fish, but a bad encounter between a human and the snake could end up in a serious bite.
Though unlikely lethal, due to the snakes small mouth, it's still something that should be avoided. Luckily, recognizing the potential dangers, Bob Forbes (who found the snake on the beach) placed it in a water-filled bucket while waiting for an expert to come help the animal.
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Unfortunately, the struggling sea snake encountered last week died before it could be returned to a safe ocean location, but it was given to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles for research purposes. Hopefully, the story of this encounter will also help teach people what to do if any potential repeat occurrences that may be caused by this year's unusual ocean climate.