Brilliant greens and electric blues swirled in the Southern Atlantic Ocean off Argentina in the spring of 2013. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of the colorful event on November 9 at 18:45 UTC (3:45 p.m. Argentina Time).
The colors are created by a massive bloom of phytoplankton, which are microscopic plant-like organisms that form the base of the marine food chain. Many species of phytoplankton live in the waters off Argentina year-round in small numbers. When conditions become favorable – typically when nutrient levels increase, sunlight increases and water temperatures reach proper levels – the phytoplankton begin an explosive growth cycle, creating massive blooms such as this one. A bloom may last several weeks, but each organism within the bloom lives only a few days.