The World’s Bluest Oceans Are Going to Get Bluer — but That’s Not a Good Thing

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In the future, climate change will cause the blues of the ocean to look bluer and the greens to look greener, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And no, that is not a good thing.

To understand how this will happen, you first need to understand why the ocean is blue in the first place. As the Weather Channel explained, the water gains its color thanks to microorganisms called phytoplankton. Those organisms contain chlorophyll, which is a pigment that absorbs the blue part of the light spectrum and reflects the green part of the light spectrum.

That means if water has more phytoplankton it will come off as more green. Parts of the ocean without these organisms look bluer.

The growth rate of phytoplankton, CNN further explained, is dependent on how much sunlight, carbon dioxide, and nutrients are in its vicinity. And, because climate change will alter all of the above, there will be fewer nutrients for phytoplankton to feed on.

The areas most affected by the change will likely be in subtropical regions like Bermuda and the Bahamas, according to the team’s findings, which were published Monday in the journal Nature Communications. Conversely, it found places like the North Atlantic and the Antarctic will become much warmer, bringing more nutrients to the area, thus turning the water much greener.

“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,” Stephanie Dutkiewicz, the study’s co-author and a principal research scientist in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, told the Weather Channel. “That basic pattern will still be there. But it’ll be enough different that it will affect the rest of the food web that phytoplankton supports.”

According to the study, these changes will likely take place by the end of the 21st century. This change will also likely have a catastrophic domino effect on not only what ocean animals eat, but what humans eat too.

“The change is not a good thing, since it will definitely impact the rest of the food web,” Dutkiewicz additionally told CNN. “Phytoplankton are at the base, and if the base changes, it endangers everything else along the food web, going far enough to the polar bears or tuna or just about anything that you want to eat or love to see in pictures.”

But, there are still things you can do to help stave off this change, even as a traveler. Read more on how to travel sustainably so we can preserve the world’s most precious places for generations to come.


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