How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 355

Why can water appear brown, blue (as in the ocean), and clear (as in a glass of water)?
Brown water contains colored contaminants that provide the color. Brown is the typical end result for a random mixture of pigments. The blue ocean is caused mostly by the sky. Since the ocean reflects some of the light from the sky, it appears blue. Pure water is almost completely colorless. Thus a glass of water has no color (unless you illuminate it with colored light). But if you look at a white light through many meters of water, that light will become slightly colored. Water absorbs a very small amount of visible light and you will see only what is not absorbed. I'm not sure what color pure water has. It may appear slightly green.

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