Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 1:21 EDT
Hydrogen Sulphide Eruption Along the Coast of Namibia
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Hydrogen Sulphide Eruption Along the Coast of Namibia

April 4, 2013
A brilliant streak of turquoise water off the Namib Desert coast of Namibia in southern Africa is a tell-tale sign of sulfur rising to the surface. The yellowish clouds of sulfur come from hydrogen sulfide gas produced by anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that can live without oxygen) at the ocean floor. In this region, strong currents bring abundant food from the bottom of the ocean to nurture large plant and animal populations. As the surface life dies, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean, where it becomes food for anaerobic bacteria.. The bacteria release hydrogen sulfide gas, which produces pure sulfur when it reacts with oxygen near the surface. In the first stages of the reaction, the sulfur appears white, and in this image creates a milky-green green tinge to the water. When the transformation is more complete, the yellowish sulfur and the blue water will combine to make the plume appear very green. The hydrogen sulfide gas is highly toxic to fish. Periodic die-offs of whole populations of fish and other commercial seafood are ongoing concerns for the regional fishing industry. This true-color Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image was acquired by the Aqua satellite on March 20, 2004. Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC