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Mysterious whiting events in the ocean have scientists baffled

Published Jan 27th, 2023 10:25PM EST
Image: MARIMA/Adobe

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For more than seven years, scientists have been scratching their heads, trying to figure out what causes mysterious whiting events in our oceans. One of the most recent events, which was photographed from space back in 2015, showcases several large white deposits in the water of the Bahamas.

Of course, that photograph from 2015 isn’t the first time we’ve observed these mysterious whiting events, as NASA and others refer to the mysteriously milky white splotches that appear in our oceans, lakes, and other bodies of water around the world. Despite how much we’ve seen them happen, they continue to confuse scientists because we just aren’t sure what causes them.

As I noted above, whiting events like the one seen in the photo from 2015 aren’t unusual. Rare, maybe, but not unheard of. And in the past, scientists have collected samples from these mysterious events, even revealing that there are high concentrations of fine-grained calcium carbonate particles within them. But we still don’t know what causes them.

whiting event in bahamasImage source: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey

The image, and the question of what causes these events, has come up again thanks to NASA’s Earth Observatory sharing the 2015 image as the image of the day back on Monday, January 23. By revisiting the old image, NASA has once again reminded us of the mystery that these whiting events offer. Further, the areas in which these events occur seem to be growing quite a bit.

According to a study published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment, oceanographer Chuanmin Hu says that the areas affected by these mysterious whiting events have grown from an average of 25 square kilometers (9.7 square miles) in 2003 to areas as large as 300-350 square kilometers (between 115 and 135 miles) in 2014 and 2015. That’s a huge amount of growth over a roughly 10-year period.

Hu told NASA’s Earth Observatory that there are some interesting relationships between the pH, salinity of the water, and the environmental conditions in the area, but solid reasoning for the mysterious whiting events has yet to be determined. Some possible theories are floating around, but these whiting events will remain a scientific mystery until we have proof of what those theories suggest.

NASA’s Earth Observatory continues to keep a watchful eye on our planet, even capturing images of newly birthed islands last year.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.