March 28, 2023 - Bloom off of Namibia


Glimmers of green colored the waters of the South Atlantic Ocean off the northern Namibian coast in late March 2023. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a true-color image of the scene on March 26.

The peacock-green streaks and swirls mark a large mass of floating phytoplankton—microscopic plant-like creatures that live in these waters year-round. When conditions are favorable, the tiny organisms can reproduce explosively to create large colonies that can easily be seen from space.

The location of this bloom occurs over a continental shelf off of the African continent, and in an area washed by the highly productive Benguela current system. This current flows along the ocean surface, moving north and west along the coast from southern Africa, and is enriched by dust blowing off the coastal deserts, including the beautiful orange sands of the Namib Desert. Easterly winds push surface waters offshore and promote upwelling, which carries cold, nutrient-rich waters up from the seafloor to the upper layers where phytoplankton are found and often spurs colorful blooms.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 3/26/2023
Resolutions: 1km (249 KB), 500m (566.6 KB), 250m (349.4 KB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC