Phytoplankton bloom off Argentina
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Phytoplankton bloom off Argentina

December 26, 2010
An early summer phytoplankton bloom turned the South Atlantic Ocean off of Argentina into a sea of swirling jewel-tone hues on December 21, 2010, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite passed overhead.

In this image, iridescent blues and greens flow in an arc, roughly over the shallow continental shelf. This is the convergence zone between the cold Malvinas (Falkland) current which sweeps northward from the Southern Ocean, and the Brazilian Current which carries warm, water southward. The passing currents cause turbulent swirls and eddy, and bring nutrients from the shelf floor to the surface, providing the fuel for rapid growth of phytoplankton. As the base of the marine food chain, blooms of phytoplankton can help maintain a wide variety of marine life.

The hammer-shaped peninsula in the north-west section of the image is the Peninsula Valdes, located on the coast of the Chubut Provence of Argentina. It is an important nature reserve, and offers a home to at least 181 bird species and many species of marine mammals. It provides breeding grounds for the southern elephant seals, and the southern right whale comes to the protected, warm waters of the Peninsula's two gulfs (Nuevo to the south and San Jose to the north) between May and December to breed and to give birth.

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