Climate Change Will Alter the Color of the Ocean

It looks like climate change deniers are going to be in for a bit of a shock if they don’t change their tune by the end of the century.  That’s because among all other extreme weather shifts we have already encountered, something is looming that is going to be very difficult to overlook.  

According to a new study from MIT, the color of the earth’s oceans will change and it is all because of climate change. Published this week in the journal Nature Communications, the new research provides a new way to predict climate change trends and shifts. More importantly, researchers say that this model could give us an early warning signal for the health of the earth’s oceans. 

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Amala Mahadevan advises that this is only the beginning for this type of research. While she was not directly involved with this study, she holds that the methods for monitoring phytoplankton we use today look only at local and regional changes.  The new model, however, uses satellite data to get a broader idea of how our ocean’s our changing.  She comments, “If we were able to get a global picture, that would be very powerful.”

Pytoplankton, of course, are microscopic algae that serves as the foundation for the food web in most ocean ecosystems.  These base organisms also store extra carbon dioxide from our atmosphere, cranking out nearly half of all the oxygen we breathe: so, yeah, they are pretty important. 

Indeed, MIT’s Stephanie Dutkiewicz notes, “Without them there wouldn’t be any life in the ocean.”  The lead study author goes on to say, “If they were to magically change—or if we were to kill them off completely—there would be a lot of carbon coming out of the ocean and back into the atmosphere, and creating more problems that we have now.”

Dutkiewicz notes makes sure to include that this change is not something that will suddenly happen.  While we might see the phytoplankton change in color—and it could be as dramatic a shift as blue to red—it is going to be a subtle over a long period of time.  Still, without addressing it now, the change will be inevitable, and that will affect not just life in the ocean. 

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