Huge natural bloom of phytoplankton swirls through North Atlantic

The microscopic, plant-like organisms known as phytoplankton bloom across the North Atlantic in spring and autumn.

This image was taken on 23 September with the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi NPP, a weather satellite operated by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

NASA explains how the image was processed.

The image was composed with data from the red, green, and blue bands from VIIRS, in addition to chlorophyll data. A series of processing steps were then applied to highlight colour differences and bring out the bloom’s more subtle features.

“The image does a beautiful job of showing the close link between ocean physics and biology,” said Michael Behrenfeld, a phytoplankton ecologist at Oregon State University. 

“The features that jump out so clearly represent the influence of ocean eddies and physical stirring on the concentration of phytoplankton pigments and, possibly, coloured dissolved organic matter.”

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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