April 25, 2019

Study Reveals the Ocean Will Shift Color This Century

06 February 2019, 12:37 | Dale Webster

The more phytoplankton in the water the less blue the seas appear scientists say

The more phytoplankton in the water the less blue the seas appear scientists say

They found that increased heat will change the mixture of phytoplankton or tiny marine organisms in the seas, which absorb and reflect light. Researchers also studied satellite images to better understand how different types of phytoplankton species absorb and reflect light.

This time around, the researchers added a new element to the model, that has not been included in other ocean modeling techniques: the ability to estimate the specific wavelengths of light that are absorbed and reflected by the ocean, depending on the amount and type of organisms in a given region.

Hickman said: "Crudely speaking, where the water is now quite blue because the phytoplankton [have a] relatively low biomass, you are going to see the water getting more blue, and where the ocean is relatively more green because the biomass is higher, you are going to see [it] getting [greener]". As such, the ocean appears blue.

The presence of phytoplankton in waters typically indicates the health of water: When there is just enough of it, life thrives and the water takes on the "healthy" green colour.

Mayotte, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

Enormous swarms of phytoplankton are responsible for turning vast swathes of water green.

"The model suggests the changes won't appear huge to the naked eye, and the ocean will still look like it has blue regions in the subtropics and greener regions near the equator and poles", said lead author Stephanie Dutkiewicz, a principal research scientist at MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. These organisms are responsible for much of the colour we see. She made a decision to try a new method: looking a subtle shifts in water color. They consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

But phytoplankton are vulnerable to the ocean's current warming trend.

According to their model, climate change is already changing the makeup of phytoplankton, and by extension, the color of the oceans.

According to the computer model developed by MIT scientists, this will make the water near the poles a weirdly unusual tropical green, as phytoplankton invade these territories thanks to the higher temperature conditions ideal for their reproduction.

Aerial view of Jack's Point Beach, near Timaru.

The numbers of phytoplankton present in oceans is crucial. And the marine ecosystem also plays a role.

What gives oceans their colour?

The pale blue dot that we inhabit could potentially become much more green, but in the wrong place. Whilst it is possible that climate change could be the cause of a population swing, it could also result from natural causes, such as an El Niño event altering the level of nutrients in the marine environment. They are home to a stunning range of lifeforms of all shapes and sizes, all of which have unique properties and reflect different wavelengths of light.

"World will able to witness different shades of green color in the oceans", study published in the journal Nature Communications, says.

"The satellites are going to be the sentinels", she said.

Also how ocean appears when we see through eyes is also driven by the amount of Phytoplankton. It has been predicted that North Atlantic ocean will top the list in reflecting this change followed by Southern Ocean.

And why does that matter? Still, the sweeping alterations to sea life will be significant enough to affect ocean's food web, which phytoplankton sit at the base of.

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