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Phytoplankton bloom off the Falklands
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Phytoplankton bloom off the Falklands

January 15, 2008

The ocean surround the Falkland Islands is vibrant with color in this image captured by the MODIS on the Terra satellite on January 13, 2008. The Falkland islands lie in the South Atlantic Ocean, where they are 300 miles off the coast of Argentina - and nearly 600 miles north of Antarctica. The two main islands are called East and West Falkland. There are 776 smaller islands!

The blue and green colors swirling in the ocean waters indicate massive amounts of microscopic marine plants called phytoplankton. The variety of colors can be due to varying concentrations and types of phytoplankton and the chlorophyll and other pigments they contain. The bright blue swath to the north of the Falklands is possibly a blue-green algae called Trichodesmium or coccolithophores, which make limestone (calcite) shells around themselves using dissolved carbon from the ocean water.

Very dark green areas could be caused by extremely high levels of phytoplankton - so much light is being absorbed by chlorophyll that the water appears dark!