Last update: November 22nd, 2019 at 11:00 am
Despite its cold waters and harsh winds, the North Sea is a fertile basin for phytoplankton blooms. The drifting, plantlike organisms tend to be most abundant in late spring and early summer due to high levels of nutrients in the water and increasing sunlight. The intense winds blowing over the relatively shallow North Sea causes a lot of vertical and horizontal mixing that brings nutrients to the surface, as does runoff from European rivers.
Colors are more intense and vivid in places where concentrations of phytoplankton are highest, which should match where nutrients like nitrates, phosphates, iron, and sulfur are most abundant and water temperatures are ideal. The patterns traced by the phytoplankton also give some insight to the currents and eddies in the area.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image on July 1, 2015. The milky appearance to the coloration suggests that a type of phytoplankton known as a coccolithophore is likely making up a large part of this bloom.