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A phytoplankton bloom off the west coast of Iceland taken on June 24, 2010. (NASA Earth Observatory)

Climate change will alter the color of the oceans, new research finds

Scientists find the ocean will look different in the future as a warming climate changes populations of marine microorganisms called phytoplankton.

By the end of the century, if not sooner, the world’s oceans will be bluer and greener thanks to a warming climate, scientists reported Monday. And while the shift in color 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.

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. Because of the way light reflects off the organisms, blooms of these phytoplankton create colorful patterns at the ocean’s surface. Climate change will fuel the blooming of some phytoplankton in some areas, while reducing it in other spots, leading to subtle changes in the ocean’s appearance.

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