January 4, 2010 - Phytoplankton Bloom off Northwestern Australia

Phytoplankton Bloom off Northwestern Australia

A large dark blue swirl marks the waters off the northwestern coast of Australia, west of Broome in this image captured by the MODIS on the Aqua satellite on December 28, 2009. The waters along the coastline also have a green glow. The colors are the result of a bloom of tiny marine organisms called phytoplankton, that, much like their land-based plant relatives, use sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into food.

Some species of phytoplankton are coated with scales of calcium (chalk), which can turn the water electric blue. Chlorophyll and other light-capturing pigments in others give the water a deep green hue. The proliferation of many different species in various stages of growth and decay can provide many nuances of color.

Also visible in the water are three green teardrop shapes - these are Rowley Shoals, atoll-like coral reefs. You can read more about Rowley Shoals here.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 12/28/2009
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC