By the end of the century, our blue oceans will turn green

Rising temperatures to make oceans bluer and greener

That's bad for climate change on several levels: For one, phytoplankton remove about as much carbon dioxide from the air as plants and help regulate our climate, research shows. The phytoplankton's chlorophyll, which absorbs blue and reflects green.

Hickman said: "Crudely speaking, where the water is now quite blue because the phytoplankton [have a] relatively low biomass, you are going to see the water getting more blue, and where the ocean is relatively more green because the biomass is higher, you are going to see [it] getting [greener]". They also simulated how phytoplankton absorbs and reflects light, learning that climate change will effectively alter the ocean's coloring near the surface.

"The basic pattern will still be there", said Research Scientist Stephanie Dutkiewicz in a press release from MIT.

Now, MIT is saying the changes in these organisms will be so extreme that they would cause a change in surface color of the oceans by the end of the 21st century. The more phytoplankton present, the more green the water appears. Scientists figured this out by creating a global model that simulates the growth of a tiny creature that lives in the oceans and affects the color we see. According to Pete Strutton, an Associate Professor at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, "Phytoplankton produce half of the oxygen in the earth's atmosphere and are at the very base of the food chain".

That, the authors say, reflects shifts in phytoplankton populations, and knock-on effects, that stem from factors including a retreat of sea ice near the poles, rising temperatures and less mixing of waters. She says that current methods for monitoring phytoplankton provide information about local or regional changes but this new method, which uses satellite data, may offer a clearer, better picture of ocean change. By looking at these measurements, the level of chlorophyll can be determined, which could be due to global warming or weather-related phenomena, such as an El Niño or La Niña, Dutkiewicz said.

It was also programmed to estimate the specific wavelengths of light that are absorbed and reflected by the ocean, taking into consideration the amount and type of organisms in a given region.

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The change in oceans' colour takes place because of the difference in quantities of phytoplankton, the microscopic algae that gives water bodies their distinct green colour.

While these changes may seem small, scientists say that they are deep and long-lasting.

In the past, scientists have used satellite measurements of chlorophyll, a light-harvesting pigment found in phytoplankton, to try and understand the impact of climate change.

The model that predicted the major colour change was based on the business-as-usual scenario whereby global average temperatures would be three degrees Celsius warmer in 2100 than they are today if no serious climate action is taken.

Importantly, she said, the shift in reflectance of blue/green light appeared to give an earlier indication of changes to phytoplankton than estimates of the amount of chlorophyll present, a measure now used to monitor phytoplankton levels.

Climate change is already having profound effects on our planet, and here's one more: It's changing the color of the oceans, with the blues getting bluer and the greens getting greener. By the end of the century, our blue planet may look visibly altered.

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