While the northern latitudes are bathed in the dull colors and light of winter, the waters of the Southern Hemisphere are alive with mid-summer blooms.
NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a natural-color satellite image of a plankton bloom on Dec. 30, 2013. The eddy is centered about 600 kilometers off the coast of Australia in the southeastern Indian Ocean.
Like land-based plants, phytoplankton require sunlight, water and nutrients to grow. Sunlight is now abundant in the far southern latitudes, so nutrients are the limiting variable to phytoplankton growth. Open waters of the ocean can appear relatively barren compared with the nutrient-rich waters near the world’s coasts. In the case of the bloom above, the nutrients may have been supplied by the churning action of ocean currents.
Image courtesy of NASA.