Offshore from Argentina, spring is in bloom. Massive patches of phytoplankton colored the ocean in November 2013. These microscopic, plant-like organisms are the ocean’s primary producers, harnessing sunlight to nourish themselves and to become food for everything from zooplankton to whales.
These organisms contain pigments (such as chlorophyll) or minerals (calcium carbonate) that appear blue, green, white or other colors depending on the species. The phytoplankton in the accompanying image, acquired by NASA’s Terra satellite on Nov. 26, 2013, likely are a blend of diatoms, dinoflagellates and coccolithophores. Near the coast, the discoloration of the water could be phytoplankton or it might be sediment runoff from rivers.
Image courtesy of NASA.