Can the Ocean’s Color Help Predict Hurricane Paths?

Having spent the past weekend here at the North Carolina coast, I know that the color of water can make a big difference in your day. Learning the subtle shifts in shade can help you avoid running aground, or give you insight as to where to dock your boat when the tide is high.

But how about the bigger picture? Can the color of the ocean actually impact hurricanes? Scientists seem to think so, and part of the key is chlorophyll.

According to redOrbit, researchers have found, in simulated tests, that the change of ocean color can decrease hurricane formation as much as 70%. As their research indicates, the presence of chlorophyll makes a large impact on how these storms are formed. The chlorophyll is in the form of phytoplankton, which converts the sun’s rays into food—and, as most of us remember from elementary school, plankton is central to the food chain at sea.

Ananad Gnanadesikan, from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, explains: “We think of the oceans as blue, but the oceans aren’t really blue, they’re actually a sort of greenish color. The fact that [the oceans] are not blue has a [direct] impact on the distribution of tropical cyclones.”

And the change in plankton levels has certainly affected the climate and general hurricane formation. According to the article, hurricanes in the North Pacific have been on the decline on the whole, and plankton may be the underlying issue. However, it’s important to realize that less hurricanes aren’t exactly a good sign. It just goes to show that even the smallest components of the ocean have wide-spread impact on the world around us.