Phytoplankton Bloom Off Argentina
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Phytoplankton Bloom Off Argentina

March 26, 2012
On the first day of fall, 2012, bright jewel-toned swirls graced the Atlantic Ocean east of the Valdes Peninsula, Argentina. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on March 20, 2012 at 18:40 UTC (3:40 p.m. local time).

The colorful patches have the appearance of dyes dropped into the sea, staining the water as they spread. Rather than stains, however, these colorful marks are created by blooms of small microscopic plant-like organisms known as phytoplankton. The colors are caused by light reflecting off the pigments contained within the organisms. Different colors may indicate a colony of different organisms, or the same organism at variable depths – the deeper the organism, the less light reflects from them, and the darker the color.

Most of the waters in the area contain some blooming phytoplankton, with watery stains varying from shades of deep blue to turquoise, and to milky bright greens. The brightest bloom has developed near where the warm salty waters of the subtropical Brazil Current flow south to meet and mix with the colder, fresher waters of the Southern Ocean carried northward by the Falklands (Malvinas) Current.

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

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