CORVALLIS, Ore. (CBS SF) — In the sci-fi cult classic movie, The Blob was a gelatinous alien life form that swallowed up everything in its path. Now, according to modern science, The Blob is a mass of warm water lurking in the Pacific, and it may be responsible for the drought conditions plaguing the Western states.

Scene from the 1958 movie 'The Blob.' (Wikimedia Commons)

Scene from the 1958 movie ‘The Blob.’ (Wikimedia Commons)

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Researchers in Oregon will determine The Blob’s influence on the climate in California, Oregon and Washington by running hundreds of variations of computer models. To cope with the huge amount of data the study will generate, they are enlisting “science volunteers” to let them run the simulations on their personal computers. They’ve set up a website where interested participants can sign up and get more information about the project.

“It takes about a week to run a year-long unit of climate data and the program is set up to automatically feed the results back to the scientists,” said Phil Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University. He is a principal investigator on the project. “It’s a great way for the general public to help the scientific community investigate some of the climate variations we’re seeing.”

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Scientists first noticed the The Blob about two years ago. The huge patch of water is about 1,000 miles across and 300 feet deep, with temperatures between 2 and 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal.

The Blob’s precise relationship to the dry conditions in Western states is still unclear. California’s historic drought has prompted draconian water conservation measures across the state. Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency and ordered water districts “to achieve a 25 percent reduction in potable urban water usage.”

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The study is part of an umbrella project launched by Oxford University in 2003 and joined by researchers at Oregon State University in 2010. It is supported by Climate Central, an independent group of climate scientists and journalists.