24 AUG 2011
This NASA satellite image shows a massive phytoplankton bloom — more than 500 miles long and several hundred miles wide — in the Barents Sea, a frigid body of water located north of Norway and Russia. The bloom occurred north of the Scandinavian peninsula, an area where multiple ocean current systems merge into the North Cape Current. While it is common for blooms to spread hundreds, or even thousands, of miles across the North Atlantic and Arctic waters — especially in August in the Barents Sea — it is rare to get such a clear view since the sea is covered by clouds most of the summer. The milky blue color suggests the presence of coccolithophores, a microscopic plankton containing white calcium carbonate, which when viewed through ocean water appears bright blue. In the Arctic, the annual spring phytoplankton blooms, triggered by melting sea ice, play a key role in the region’s marine ecology.
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