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Pink Ocean: Valentine’s Day Miracle or Scientific Mystery?

Here in Santa Barbara county, we are surrounded by the all encompassing Pacific Ocean. Due to recent discourses on climate change and its effects, there has been critical debate on the state of the ocean and the danger to its future. The only thing not debated about the ocean is its color. However, recent experiments conducted by researchers at UCSD and University of Washington will have beach goers questioning how the ocean could be any color other than blue. 

Researchers at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the University of Washington are temporarily turning the seawater at a San Diego beach pink in the name of science. The experiment is meant to study the way that freshwater outflows interact with the surf zone. While rivers and estuaries are important to delivering freshwater and sediment to the coastal ocean, little is known about how the more buoyant freshwater interacts with the denser and often colder nearshore ocean environment and its breaking waves. By releasing an environmentally safe pink dye into the ocean, researchers can track the processes that take place when the fresh and saltwater meet. The first of three releases of dye began on January 20 with the last taking place in early February. The releases will be conducted within Torrey Pines State Beach and Natural Reserve in San Diego. 

The results of this experiment will offer crucial new information on the spread of sediment, pollutants, larvae, and other important materials. After each release, the pink dye is visible to the naked eye for approximately 24 hours. Thanks to researchers at UCSD and University of Washington, beach goers in San Diego County will be left wondering if the change to their ocean is a Valentine’s Day miracle, all in the name of science. 

[Image Credit: Mary Moses]


  • Mary Moses

    Mary Moses is a junior at Santa Barbara High School and has been a member of The Forge for three years. She also plays for the tennis team and enjoys reading, going to the beach, and spending time with friends in her free time.

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