Last update: November 13th, 2019 at 11:00 am
This image shows a phytoplankton bloom off the coast of Tasmania. Phytoplankton are microscopic marine plants crucial to the ocean food chain. They are also known as microalgae and are similar to terrestrial plants in that they contain chlorophyll and require sunlight in order to live and grow.
In this image from NASA’s Terra satellite, bright swirls of turquoise, teal, and milky blue colored the waters off of Tasmania in early December 2016. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) captured this true-color image on December 4, 2016.
A complex pattern of haze and cloud cover eastern Tasmania and extends over the Tasman Sea, but the bright colors in the ocean can still easily be viewed from space. The colors are created by a massive phytoplankton bloom – small plant-like organisms which contain pigment, including chlorophyll. Different colors are likely caused by populations of different species of phytoplankton which are blooming at the same time in these waters. The swirling patterns are typically caused by ocean currents on which the phytoplankton float.