The Real Reason Why Some Ocean Water Is More Turquoise Than Others

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Close your eyes. Now, think of a dreamy vacation destination. Does it have palm trees slowly waving in the warm breeze? Blue skies and soft, golden sand? We bet your daydream getaway contains one more thing, too: turquoise waters.

Be it a honeymoon in Bora Bora, a friends-only weekend away in the Bahamas, or a family trip to the Greek Islands, that blue water has us all hooked. But how, exactly, does it get to be that unbelievable hue anyway? 

"The reason the ocean is blue is due to the absorption and scattering of light," NASA explains. "The blue wavelengths of light are scattered, similar to the scattering of blue light in the sky, but absorption is a much larger factor than scattering for the clear ocean water. In water, absorption is strong in the red and weak in the blue, thus red light is absorbed quickly in the ocean, leaving blue."

Yacht on the sea from top view. Turquoise water background from top view.

Biletskiy Evgeniy/Getty Images

However, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) adds, most of the world's oceans are "completely dark," as almost no light can penetrate depths beyond 656 feet, and absolutely "no light penetrates deeper than 3,280 feet." 

So how, then, is the water in places like the Caribbean, South Pacific, and Greece such a specific shade of azure blue? As the Oceanic Research Group explains, it's because not only are the waters around the islands shallower, but those same waters are also almost completely free of plankton, causing other waters to turn a more greenish hue. Additionally, these lighter blue waters are usually home to heavier sand and sediment, which churns up less, leaving waters more clear. 

One last thing that works in these little slices of paradise is the fact that the waters are exceptionally calm. These destinations tend to experience less "upwelling," which NOAA explains is when the wind blows "across the ocean surface," pushing the water away. "Water then rises up from beneath the surface to replace the water that was pushed away." Though the water that rises up is nutrient-rich, it also comes with "high biological productivity," which turns it a murkier shade. 

So, there you have it — everything you'd ever need to know about why some waters around the world are bluer than others. Now, all that's left to do is go see it in real life and appreciate all the scientific reasons why it's so beautiful as you stare at it from sunrise to sundown. 

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