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Phytoplankton Bloom in the North Sea
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Phytoplankton Bloom in the North Sea

June 5, 2009
Deep blues and greens color the North Sea in this image captured by the MODIS on the Terra satellite on May 31, 2009. The coloration in the water is due to the presence of phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are tiny marine organisms that, much like their land-based plant relatives, use sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into food. Some species of phytoplankton are coated with scales of calcium (chalk), which can turn the water electric blue. Chlorophyll and other light-capturing pigments in others give the water a deep green hue. 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! The proliferation of many different species in various stages of growth and decay can provide many nuances of color.

Some of the phytoplankton blooms are located off the coast of Norway (visible at the top right) and Denmark (at bottom right).


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