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Mystery Solved! The Key to the Mega-Blue Santa Barbara Ocean

mega blue santa barbara oeceanIf you live in Santa Barbara County, you probably noticed the striking turquoise color of the Pacific Ocean last week. The brilliant color is not only amazing to behold, but it is also a delight to UC Santa Barbara researchers who say the mystery behind this unusual color change is a type of chalk-producing phytoplanktonic organism called a coccolithophore. These organisms haven’t been seen locally in this magnitude since the 1980s.
The phenomenon was explained in the UCSB Current story, “In Living Color.” The article explains how a team of oceanography experts are working long hours in the lab to experiment with samples taken from waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. That’s where they found the microscopic organisms in enormous quantities. These organisms are a thousand times smaller than a millimeter, and usually reside in the ocean unseen.
chalk-producing phytoplanktonic organism called a coccolithophore“Coccolithophores make chalk — calcium carbonate — internally in the organelles within the cell and they push it outside the cell membrane,” said biological oceanographer Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. “They contain a material that glues the chalk plates to the membrane of the cell, and as they make more, they shed the plates so we get these white tides.”
Researchers care about coccolithophores because they’re a leading defense in protecting the atmosphere from carbon dioxide. These plates are made up of calcium carbonate, similar to clam and oyster shells and the same material that forms the white cliffs of Dover in the English Channel. This biological process represents one of the most important mechanisms by which the Earth locks carbon into solid material, some of which ends up in the seafloor.
“The beauty of all this is that it’s a very efficient way in the long term of sequestering carbon in planetary terms,” Iglesias-Rodriguez said. “So this bloom is a big deal and a great way to learn more about these amazing plants.”
While our ocean is always strikingly beautiful, this recent phenomenon that has painted the Santa Barbara ocean turquoise is just one of the many amazing things that make living here absolutely fascinating. If you are considering moving to Montecito, Hope Ranch or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities, just call me at 805.886.9378 or email me at I am also here to help homeowners sell their property using my tried and true strategic marketing strategy. I look forward to helping you find your dream home or selling your property in this beautiful part of the world!

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