August 10, 2009 - Journey to the Galapagos

Journey to the Galapagos

Of all the places in the world, thereís no place like the Galapagos Islands. The 19 volcanic islands are relatively new in geologic time, ranging from one to four million years old, with new islands still sprouting. They sit along the equator, between 700 to 1,000 kilometers (435 to 621 miles) from the nearest land masses. The isolation has made the islands a natural laboratory for evolution that not only famously inspired Charles Darwin, but continues to fascinate scientists today.

The marine life in the seas surrounding the Galapagos is influenced by unique oceanographic conditions. These images from the MODIS aboard the Aqua satellite on March 2, 2009, show how the currents around the Galapagos affect sea life. The main image shows Sea Surface Temperature.

The main image shows Sea Surface Temperature. The deep Cromwell Current flows eastward from the middle Pacific and slams into the islands, pushing deep, cool water (blues and purples) to the surface. Deep waters accumulate nutrients that settle down through water column over long periods of time. When these waters well up to the surface, they nourish phytoplankton, which form the base of the oceanís food web. Many fish, birds, and marine mammals depend on the phytoplankton. If you move your mouse over the image, you will see a secondary image that shows Chlorophyll. This shows how life responds to the nutrient-rich water. Thriving phytoplankton populations are indicated by high chlorophyll concentrations, colored green and yellow.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 03/02/2009
Bands Used:
Image Credit: Robert Simmon and Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, based on data from the GSFC Ocean Color team.