Phytoplankton Bloom Off Namibia
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Phytoplankton Bloom Off Namibia

April 4, 2007

What looks like just a phytoplankton bloom off of Namibia, may be something totally different! This image, acquired March 24, 2007 by the MODIS on the Aqua satellite, shows green swirls in the water, off the African coast.

Cold waters in this region well up from deep in the ocean, replenishing nutrients at the ocean surface, often resulting in a rapid increase in marine plant life, like phytoplankton. The phytoplankton live just a few days, after which they sink and build up on the ocean floor, where they decompose with the help of bacteria.

One specific kind of bacteria gives off hydrogen sulfide gas which periodically bubbles up to the ocean surface; when it encounters more oxygen-rich water near the surface, a chemical reaction occurs that transforms the gas into pure sulfur. The mixture of the yellow sulfur and blue water make the water look green!

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