Partner Series
Earth as Art: An Ocean Bloom
A massive summer phytoplankton bloom colored the waters with a swirl of turquoise, green and white in late December 2011.
Credit: NASA.

Off the coast of South Africa, near where the South Atlantic meets the Southern Indian Ocean, a massive summer phytoplankton bloom colored the waters with a swirl of turquoise, green and white in late December 2011. Although this circular bloom has the appearance of a precious antique gaming marble, it is actually the result of millions of tiny plant-like organisms (phytoplankton ) which are growing where nutrient-rich waters mix together.

Each spring and summer, lengthening sunshine comes to the southern oceans, providing light to spur the growth of these microscopic plants . The lengthening light also melts sea ice, which can release additional nutrients into the sea. Blooms such as this one become a banquet for krill, fish and other marine species which survive in these cool waters.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image on December 26, 2011 as it passed over the region.