Last update: October 16th, 2019 at 10:05 am
Jewel-toned swirls of color mark the presence of a phytoplankton bloom in the currents off of Norway’s western coast in late May 2016. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image on May 27 as it passed over the region.
Phytoplankton are microscopic plant-like organisms which contain chlorophyll and other pigments. Present in ocean waters year-round, when nutrients, sunlight, and water temperature become optimal the phytoplankton reproduce explosively, creating giant blooms.
The range of colors in this bloom, which varies from milky blue to green, suggests the presence of different species phytoplankton. In particular, the whitish tint suggests coccolithophores, a species which is covered with a chalky white plating of calcite (limestone). Each individual only measures one three-thousandths of a millimeter in diameter, but an abundance of this species gives the bloom a chalky white appearance.