Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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August 14, 2014
Dueling Blooms

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NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this natural-color image of phytoplankton blooming in the waters off of Norway and Russia on July 10, 2014. Note the green swirls in the water on the center and left, while milky blue-white swirls color the upper right. Though it is impossible to know the types of phytoplankton without sampling the water directly, previous analyses of satellite images suggest the green plankton were likely diatoms and the white ones were probably coccolithophores.As the seasons and years pass on Earth, different species tend to dominate the landscape at different times. Such is the case in summer in the surface waters of the Barents Sea, north of Scandinavia and Russia. NASA satellites recently captured a transitional moment between one form of microscopic, plant-like organisms (phytoplankton) and another as summer water conditions changed.

Previous research has suggested that diatoms, a microscopic form of algae with silica shells and plenty of chlorophyll, start to bloom in the well-mixed surface waters of spring and dominate the early summer. As the water warms and becomes more stratified, or layered, coccolithophores bloom more abundantly from late July into the autumn. Coccolithophores show up as milky white-green in satellite imagery due to their calcium carbonate shells.

Image courtesy of NASA.

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