Plankton colors provide information about ocean health • Earth.com

Plankton colors provide information about ocean health

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features a phytoplankton bloom off the coast of Argentina, which became visible in satellite images as summer approached in the southern hemisphere.

“The color of the ocean provides us with important information about phytoplankton, the health of the ocean, and the global climate,” said Ivona Cetinić, the science lead of ocean biogeochemistry for an upcoming NASA satellite called the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission.

Cetinić said that the color of the swirls can tell us something about the type of plankton present in the bloom. She explained that it is difficult to tell immediately the types of phytoplankton present.

Identifying the different types of phytoplankton present in seawater can help scientists understand more about carbon and nutrient cycling in the ocean. While satellites still have some limitations for understanding ocean ecology, some of these limitations could soon be resolved, said Cetinić.

“PACE is hyperspectral, which means it will be able to see many different hues and will help us tease apart which types of phytoplankton are present. It will also help us quickly identify and forecast harmful algal blooms.” 

Cetinić said that moving to PACE to understand ocean ecology will be like “switching from a flip phone to the latest smart phone.”

The image was captured on November 21, 2022 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. 

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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