Sunday, 17 February, 2019

Colour of oceans to change by end of 21st century

Changes in algae will turn some seas a more brilliant blue Changes in algae will turn some seas a more brilliant blue Credit Gardel
Frank Williams | 05 February, 2019, 20:28

The researchers also simulated the way phytoplankton absorb and reflect light, and how the ocean's color changes as global warming affects the makeup of phytoplankton communities.

The best example is phytoplankton - an aquatic micro-organism.

The study further suggests that the blue regions would become bluer indicating less phytoplankton and life in those parts of the ocean whereas areas where the colour of the ocean is green, may get even deeper green as rising temperatures would facilitate more growth of different species of phytoplankton.

And while the shift in colour will be all but imperceptible to the human eye, it could hint at the profound changes in store for a wide array of marine life.

Phytoplankton are microscopic, often single-celled organisms that live in water.

"There will be a noticeable difference in the color of 50 percent of the ocean by the end of the 21st century", said 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.

They also play an important role in how we see the oceans with our eyes. It's also changing the color of the oceans. The outcome will be in the coming time, these species will get extinct and predictions are by 2100, more than 50% of world's seas will change their colors and get more blue. This water is "barren", and the typical oceanic blue is seen in open waters.

To make the distinction between greening due to climate change and due to isolated weather events or other factors, the researchers put in the measurements of reflected light from satellite imagery into a model that mapped oceanic currents and water mixing.

As the delicate ecosystems of the world's oceans become altered in the face of climate change, so too will their colour.

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Since the 1990s, satellites have taken regular measurements of how much chlorophyll is in the ocean.

Phytoplankton contain chlorophyll, a pigment that mostly absorbs in the blue portions of sunlight to produce carbon for photosynthesis, and less so in the green portions.

At the heart of the phenomenon lie tiny marine microorganisms called phytoplankton, which are crucial to ocean food webs and to the global cycling of carbon - and sensitive to the temperature of ocean waters.

They believe it will be 30-40 years before they can say for certain that climate change is having an impact on chlorophyll.

This was expected to happen at the end of the century, but assuming the three-degree rise path the world is on now, oceanic colour change could be drastic by 2055.

The more phytoplankton there are in the water, the greener the colour, the fewer there are the bluer the colour. "But you can see a significant, climate-related shift in some of these wavebands, in the signal being sent out to the satellites".

"What we've shown is that the colour in the blue-green range is going to show that signal of change sooner, in some places in maybe the next decade", said Dr Dutkiewicz.

Though the change is unlikely to be a radical one, we could be about to see brighter blues and stronger greens as global warming pushes temperatures up. "It could be potentially quite serious. Different types of phytoplankton absorb light differently, and if climate change shifts one community of phytoplankton to another, that will also change the types of food webs they can support", Dutkiewicz added.

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