A springtime bloom of plant-like ocean organisms created colorful swirls in the waters off southern Argentina in late November 2020. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Terra satellite acquired a true-color image of the jewel-toned scene on November 20.
Lengthening days along with warming temperatures help spur the growth of phytoplankton – microscopic organisms that live near the water’s surface year-round in this area. When triggered by ideal conditions (abundant light, adequate temperatures, and nutrients), the organisms begin to reproduce explosively, creating large “blooms” that can easily be viewed from space.
Phytoplankton blooms regularly occur off Argentina’s Patagonian coast for a reason: it is the convergence zone between the warm, southbound Brazil Current near the coast and the cold, northbound Malvinas/Falkland Current farther out to sea. As the currents brush past each other, turbulent swirls and eddies form, causing cold, nutrient-rich water to well up toward the surface from deeper in the ocean- providing a feast for rapidly increasing phytoplankton blooms.