As painters such as J.M.W. Turner or Claude Monet knew well, the ocean can come in myriad different colors, from royal blue to dark grey and emerald green. That’s because of the different ways in which water absorbs sunlight. On a sunny day, the ocean looks blue because water absorbs colors in the red part of the light spectrum, so all that we see is what’s left behind in the blue light spectrum.
Much of this light absorption is carried out by microscopic marine algae called phytoplankton that, much like plants do on land, use chlorophyll to carry out photosynthesis, turning light energy into chemical energy that can be used to sustain life in the ocean.
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