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Phytoplankton Bloom
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Phytoplankton Bloom

March 7, 2012
Summertime in Antarctica means long days filled with sunlight, which often creates favorable conditions for phytoplankton blooms in the frigid ocean. On February 27, 2012, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite passed over the Princess Astrid Coast, and captured this true-color image of a summer phytoplankton bloom at the sea-ice edge.

Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms or, more simply, very tiny free-floating plants. When there are adequate nutrients, warmth and sunlight, these organisms burst into a rapid growth phase, or “bloom”. The bloom can appear like a thick pea soup, and cover large sections of ocean.

These tiny plants form the base of the marine food chain, providing nourishment for a variety of zooplankton, such as copepods and krill, which in turn provide food for fish, seals, whales and penguins. The waters off the Princess Astrid Coast are well known as a home for rich krill populations, but such richness Could not exist without a health phytoplankton base.

Credits: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC


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