Last week, ocean scientists at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography released a non-toxic pink dye into the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon at Torrey Pines State Beach, turning a semi-popular surf spot a groovy shade of pink. While the move created some adorable-looking waves, the main objective of the experiment was to study how small freshwater outflows interact with surf zones.

@scripps_oceanography If you’ve noticed a pink hue to the water at Torrey Pines State Beach today, don’t fret—it’s research in action. 🌊 An experiment at this San Diego beach is turning the seawater pink, temporarily, to study how small freshwater outflows interact with the surfzone. Learn more about the new experiment led by Scripps coastal oceanographer Sarah Giddings, what the research team is hoping to find, and why pink dye is being used in this study by visiting the link in our bio. #SanDiego #ScrippsOceanography #ucsandiego #ucsd ♬ Surf guitar 60s spy movie summer sea – C_O

“Rivers and estuaries play an important role in delivering freshwater and materials such as sediments and contaminants to the coastal ocean, but little is known about how these plumes of more buoyant, fresher water interact with the denser, saltier and often colder nearshore ocean environment, particularly as the plumes encounter breaking waves,” writes the scientists in this recent write-up.

With the help of this dye and some fancy equipment like drones, sensors affixed to poles in the sand in the river mouth and surfzone, and a jet ski outfitted with a fluorometer, the study will provide more understanding of how outflows of freshwater interact with the waves at locations around the globe. More rose-colored dye is set to be released at the beginning of next month.

“I’m excited because this research hasn’t been done before and it’s a really unique experiment,” said Scripps coastal oceanographer Sarah Giddings, who is leading the PiNC study. “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. We will combine results from this experiment with an older field study and computer models that will allow us to make progress on understanding how these plumes spread.”

The study in itself is a pretty rad dive into ocean dynamics, and well worth a read. Click here to find out more about this specific research.

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