Oceans Will Change Color By End Of 21st Century Because Of Climate Change


Researchers of a new study have revealed the world's oceans will change color by the end of the century as a result of climate change.

World's Oceans To Change Color In 2100

Study researcher Stephanie Dutkiewicz, from MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, and colleagues said the ocean will not have the same color in the future as global warming causes significant changes to the phytoplankton in the world's seas.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers developed a global model that simulates the growth and interaction of different phytoplankton species and how the mix of these species in various locations will change amid rising temperatures worldwide.

They also simulated the way these microscopic organisms absorb and reflect light, and how the color of the ocean will change as climate change affects the make up of phytoplankton communities.

Dutkiewicz and colleagues ran the model through the end of the 21st century and found that by the year 2100, more than half of the world's oceans will change in color because of climate change.

The research suggests blue regions, such as those in the subtropics, will become bluer by the end of the century as the waters reflect less phytoplankton and marine life. Regions that are greener today such as those near the poles may also turn deeper green as warming temperatures brew up larger blooms of more diverse phytoplankton.

Factors That Influence Ocean Color

The color of the ocean depends on the interaction of sunlight with whatever is in the water. Water molecules do not absorb the blue spectrum of sunlight so it is reflected back. This explains why barren ocean regions appear deep blue in space.

Organisms in the ocean absorb and reflect different wavelengths of light. Phytoplankton, for instance, contain chlorophyll, which absorbs mostly blue parts of the light. They absorb the green part of the spectrum less so this is reflected back out of the oceans. Thus, algae-rich regions tend to have a greenish hue.

"Phytoplankton community structure, which strongly affects ocean optics, is likely to show one of the clearest and most rapid signatures of changes to the base of the marine ecosystem," the researchers wrote in their study.

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