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

July 15, 2010
Rippling clouds of phytoplankton were blooming west of Norway in the North Sea when the MODIS on the Terra satellite acquired this image on June 3, 2010. To the west of the bloom is northern Scotland and England. Clouds cover much of the little land that is visible in this image.

Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms that thrive in cold, nutrient-rich waters. They use photosynthesis, like their land-based plant relatives, to convert sunlight into energy. It is the chlorophyll in these organisms that gives them their greenish hue, and this hue, when combined with the deep blue of the water, creates sparkling jewel tones of blues and green. The very bright blue can also be produced by the blue reflection from the water and the reflection from an organism called a coccolithophore, whose chalky, calcium-based covering is bright white. When these organisms concentrate in enough numbers, great clouds of them can be seen from space.

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