The Pacific Ocean near San Diego has turned pink, leaving the locals with many questions. However, researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have clarified that the occurrence is due to a study they are carrying out. The research project called Plumes in Nearshore Conditions, or PiNC, is aimed at understanding how freshwater mixes with salt water near the shore. 

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The researchers have released a non-toxic pink dye into the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon coastal estuary. The dye will help them monitor the spread of freshwater in the surf zone along the beach. The pink plume will be monitored from land, sea and air. Moreover, the dye is not harmful to humans, wildlife or the environment. Although civilians are urged not to swim in the area for the ongoing research.

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“We’re bringing together a lot of different people with different expertise, such that I think it’s going to have some really great results and impacts,” said Scripps coastal oceanographer and study leader Sarah Giddings. “We will combine results from this experiment within older field studies and computer models that will allow us to make progress on understanding how these plumes spread.”

The results of the research will help determine the fate of freshwater in ocean waves. Currently, the team has four hypotheses: the freshwater could get trapped in the surf zone, escape as a freshwater plume, stay within a certain parameter of the coastline or mix with the ocean water next to the shore through waves. 

The results of the study will help in understanding the health of estuaries, which are important ecosystems that filter out sediments and pollutants from water before flowing into the ocean. The study will combine results from previous field studies and computer models to progress the understanding of plume spreading. Overall, the research aims to delve into the interaction between estuaries and the coastal ocean.

The team plans to do three dye releases, the first of which was on January 20, with another planned before the end of the month and another in early February. The bright pink coloration will be visible to the naked eye for several hours and small traces can be detected for about 24 hours.

The first trial was “highly successful,” according to researchers. The dye showed that the initial plume was trapped in the surf area, but eventually moved south.

Via CBS News

Lead image via Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego