April 18, 2014 - Phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic Ocean

Phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic Ocean

A massive phytoplankton bloom continued to color the waters over the Grand Banks in early April, 2014. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on April 7 at 16:10 UTC (1:30 p.m. local time).

The coast of Newfoundland, colored bright white with snow, can be seen in the northwestern edge of the image. Ridges of cloud covers the land and the ocean due east of the coast. A long, swirling ribbon of milky turquoise, teal and green stretches across the image from northeast to southwest. Fainter, duller greens and blues can be seen throughout the entire swath of the North Atlantic visible in this image, underlying the clouds and filling the waters south and east of Newfoundland with swirls of typical colors which indicate a massive colony of phytoplankton.

The microscopic, plantlike organisms form the bottom of the marine food chain, and as such are the first peg in supporting the robust fishing industry of the region. Phytoplankton also play a role in Earth’s carbon cycle, removing carbon dioxide from sea water and releasing oxygen. Because the organisms are composed of organic substances which contain carbon, if they drop to the bottom of the ocean and are buried under layers of debris when they die, they lock carbon into the ocean floor, acting as a carbon sink. As they decompose, they release carbon back into the ocean and, ultimately, into the atmosphere.

Vernal blooms are common in this region, where the warm Gulf Stream and the cold Labrador Current mix over the shallow seas of the Grand Banks. Although each individual organism lives only a short time, a bloom may last several weeks. An earlier image of this bloom, captured on March 28, 2014, can be found as the MODIS Image of the Day on April 11, 2014. To view the image, go here: http://lance-modis.eosdis.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/imagery/single.cgi?image=AtlanticOcean.A2014097.1610.1km.jpg

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 4/7/2014
Resolutions: 1km (82.1 KB), 500m (271.3 KB), 250m (623.3 KB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC