Why Are Scientists Dyeing the Ocean Pink?

3/10/2023; 2 minutes

Why is the ocean — and this team of researchers — looking pretty in pink? For science! Scientists at UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography have launched the PiNC (Plumes in Nearshore Conditions) experiment to study the coastal zone where a river meets the ocean. Using a non-toxic, environmentally safe pink dye and a suite of instruments, researchers released the dye in the mouth of the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon at Torrey Pines State Beach near San Diego, California in the winter of 2023.

Rivers and estuaries play an important role in delivering freshwater and materials such as sediments and contaminants to the coastal ocean, but little is known about how these plumes of more buoyant, fresher water interact with the denser, saltier and often colder nearshore ocean environment, particularly as the plumes encounter breaking waves. This experiment enables scientists to track the processes that take place when small-scale plumes of freshwater meet the surfzone.

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