A massive and spectacular phytoplankton bloom filled the Barents Sea with swirls of blues and green in mid-August 2022. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a true-color image of colorful waters off of the northeastern coast of Norway and northwestern coast of Russia.
Phytoplankton are microscopic plant-like organisms that are the foundation of the marine food web. Like plants, they contain chlorophyll and other pigments that they use to harvest sunlight for photosynthesis. They live in the waters of the Barents Sea year-round. In winter, frigid water temperatures and extremely short daylength aren’t favorable for reproduction so their numbers are relatively small. In late spring and summer, temperatures rise, the sun shines for most of each day, sea ice melts, and nutrient levels rise, phytoplankton can reproduce explosively, creating massive colorful blooms, such as this one. The Barents Sea bloom normally peaks in August, before cold weather and shortening days rapidly return to the region.