Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Beautiful Plankton Blooms Seen from Space

NASA's Terra satellite captured this natural-color image of phytoplankton blooms on May 4, 2013, in France's Bay of Biscay.


As weather warms up off the coast of France, blooms of plankton have once again begun to form, creating a beautiful, multicolored swirl visible from space.

NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites acquired these images of the colorful blooms on April 20 and May 4, according to  the NASA Earth Observatory. On the later date, a noticeably larger bloom occurred, fueled by nutrient runoff from French rivers and warmer temperatures in the Bay of Biscay.

Phytoplankton blooms provide food for a whole host of creatures, from zooplankton (small drifting animals) to whales. Through photosynthesis, the blooms harness the energy of the sun and turn carbon dioxide into sugars. Sometimes, however, they can cause problems: certain species of phytoplankton can form so-called red tides and produce neurotoxins that affect marine mammals as well as humans. And when they get too big, the blooms can create dead zones as the algae sinks and decomposes, consuming oxygen.

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