Tracking chlorophyll-a in the North Atlantic • Earth.com

Last update: May 6th, 2021 at 11:00 am

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features a specially processed photo of the North Atlantic Ocean which reveals high concentrations of chlorophyll-a that are not visible to the naked eye. 

Chlorophyll-a is the primary pigment used by phytoplankton to harvest sunlight for energy. By measuring chlorophyll-a levels, scientists can estimate the abundance of phytoplankton in a given region. Chlorophyll is any of several related green pigments found in the mesosomes of cyanobacteria and in the chloroplasts of algae and plants. Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρός, khloros and φύλλον, phyllon. Chlorophyll is essential in photosynthesis, allowing plants to absorb energy from light.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite observes Earth in 36 different visible, infrared, and near-infrared wavelengths. Scientists have worked for three decades to tune the sensors and data processing to identify areas with phytoplankton blooms.

According to NASA, phytoplankton often trace the edges and fronts of ocean eddies and warm core rings that spin off from currents like the Gulf Stream. 

Phytoplankton fuel just about everything that lives in the ocean and produce about half of Earth’s oxygen.

The data for the image was captured on March 30, 2021 by Aqua MODIS.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Fresh News coming
your way, Weekly

The biggest news about our planet
delivered to you each day