Study: Climate change will alter ocean colors by 2100

Study: Climate change will alter ocean colors by 2100
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Climate change could begin to affect the color of the oceans by the end of the century, if not sooner, according to a new study.

The change is expected to make the oceans bluer and greener, though the shift in color will be imperceptible to the human eye, according to a study published Monday in Nature Communications.

Scientists found that climate change's effects on ocean temperatures will have an effect on the concentration of phytoplankton, small marine organisms that are critical to the cycling of carbon and sensitive to changes in the ocean's temperature. Light reflected off the organisms gives the ocean's surface its colorful patterns.

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According to the study, climate change will help spur phytoplankton growth in some parts of the ocean, while diminishing their presence elsewhere. 

The changes will affect more than half of the world's oceans by the end of the year 2100, the study found, though scientists said the change will only be visible via satellite and other technologies.

"We note that these are relatively small shifts, unlikely to be easily registered by eye," reads the study's abstract, noting that different areas will experience different changes. "Increase in the hue angle can be interpreted as a shift to bluer water, while a decrease suggests greener water."

Stephanie Dutkiewicz, a researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of the study, told USA Today that the changing ocean composition could have serious effects on biodiversity and the amount of life the world's oceans can support.

"It could be potentially quite serious," she said. "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."

"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,” she added.