January 1, 2004
Launched on August 1, 1997, the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS) began collecting global data operationally in mid-September of that year and has been flawlessly gathering observations of ocean color for the past six years. While most of the light that is scattered back to space out of clear ocean water is blue, ocean water contains many things in addition to just water. These things can change the color of the ocean surface. In coastal areas, runoff from rivers, sand and silt churned up from the ocean bottom by tides, waves, and storms are among the things that change the color of the near-shore waters. However, for most of the world's oceans, the most important things that influence its color are phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are very small, single-celled plants, generally smaller than the size of a pinhead, that contain a green pigment called chlorophyll.
Topics: Environment, Aquatic ecology, Chemistry, Biology, Coastal Zone Color Scanner, Chlorophyll, Phytoplankton, SeaWiFS, Planktology, Biological oceanography, Biological pigment, Nature