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Learn More: Ocean Color

"No water, no life. No blue, no green." -Sylvia Earle

The color of the ocean is determined by the interaction of sunlight with substances or particles present in seawater such as chlorophyll, a green pigment found in most phytoplankton species. By monitoring global phytoplankton distribution and abundance with unprecedented detail, PACE will help us to better understand the complex systems that drive ocean ecology.

What's New
What color is your ocean? [more]
Influences on ocean color [more]
20 years of satellite observations [more]
Background on ocean color [more]
The optical properties of water [more]


Twenty years of global biosphere
This data visualization shows the Earth’s biosphere from September 1997 through September 2017. Credit: NASA/GSFC.
This visualization shows ocean color data collected by SeaWiFS (Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor), the first ocean color satellite that permitted continuous remote observation of plant life in the ocean (operational from 1997-2010). But the "ocean color story" goes a little further back, with the launch of CZCS (Coastal Zone Color Scanner), which was the first satellite that collected - not continuously - ocean color data (1978-1986). It's really cool that there are people in our lab who were part of that mission - they had printouts and punchcards! Things work a little bit differently these days. Data is delivered automatically, within a couple of hours.

Dr. Ivona Cetinić, Ocean Ecologist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Beyond Blue: Why Ocean Color Really Matters (15-May-19).