One of the things that we consistently expect from the ocean is its deep blue color that reflects the sky, right? Well, scientists at UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography along with scientists at the University of Washington have been experimenting with dyeing the ocean at San Diego beach pink. What could they possibly be up to?
This is being done for a study that examines how freshwater outflows are combining with the ocean surfzone. The experiment is called Plumes in Nearshore Conditions (PiNC). Sarah Giddings, a Scripps coastal oceanographer leading the PiNC study said: “I’m excited because this research hasn’t been done before and it’s a really unique experiment.”
This experiment is taking place around Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, which can be found in Torrey Pines State Beach and Natural reserve in San Diego, California. The aim is to understand how freshwater interacts with waves, since it is usually warmer than ocean water and more buoyant.
This is why the pink dye is involved. The freshwater is dyed pink so that the team can keep track of it when the plumes of freshwater are added to the saltwater surf. The dye is environmentally friendly and is then tracked as it makes progress in the water. It is tracked by sensors on poles that are located along the sand as well as by drones. There’s also a jet ski with a fluorometer that tracks the light that is emitted from the pink dye. The sensors outside of the surf zone record the height of the waves, salinity, ocean currents, and temperature.
There are three planned dye releases as of now, and researchers are hoping that this pink dye experiment will help them understand more about how pollutants, sediment, and larvae travel in the ocean water through these additions of freshwater.
Giddings explained: “We’re bringing together a lot of different people with different expertise, such that I think it’s going to have some really great results and impacts. We will combine results from this experiment with an older field study and computer models that will allow us to make progress on understanding how these plumes spread.”