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Why is sea blue in colour- What causes water in oceans to look blue

BY: Swati | Category: Education | Post Date: 2008-10-03
 



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   Swati
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Earth is often called the "Blue Planet" because oceans cover majority of the earth's surface. But surprisingly when we take a transparent glass and fill with ocean water, other than the impurities and sand, the water in glass looks perfectly clear/transparent and not blue.

What do oceans look blue?
There are several reasons for it:

#1. The oceans reflect the blue colour of the sky.
#2. The particles and impurities in ocean water also helps it to get the bluish colour.
#3. But the most important reason tends to be a more of a scientific explanation.

A quick course on what causes our eyes to see the differnet colours:
The regular white-transparent light we know is actually formed of many different colours but surprisingly, these combination of colours just appears clear/transparent to our eyes. The only reason we see coloured objects is because that object absorbs most colors of white light but reflects back the colour it is not able to absorb. For example the rose looks red because when the white light falls on it, it absorbs most of it but is unable to absorb the red colour and reflects it back, therefore it appears red to our eyes. This phenomena is actually responsible to give colours to all objects around us.

Now back to our explanation (#3)
When a white/transparent sunbeams hit the water surface, all colours try to penetrate deep, but each colour is absorbed in a different way. Blue wavelengths are absorbed the least by the deep ocean water and reflected back or scattered in different directions. That is why most blue wavelengths that are reflected back to our eyes give oceans their blue colour.

Other shades of oceans:
As we go deeper into the sea the water appears more and more blue. Deep seas can actually be completely dark at the bottom as all the light is reflected back by that time or absorbed by impurities. We may find different shades of blue which is caused because of all the concentration of impurities, sand or algae within it.

References:
www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/oceanblue.html

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