In the early afternoon on July 26, 2014, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’sAqua satellite acquired this natural-color view of a massive bloom of phytoplankton off the coast of Oregon and Washington. The floating, plant-like organisms give the water a milky green color in satellite imagery.
Marine phytoplankton require just the right amount of sunlight, dissolved nutrients, and moderate water temperatures—not too hot, not too cold—to make their populations explode into blooms that cover hundreds of square kilometers of the sea. In the Pacific Northwest of North America in the summer, warming land temperatures create favorable winds that blow offshore and push surface waters away from the coast. This causes cooler, nutrient-rich waters to well up from the depths and provide the right conditions for blooms. The phytoplankton can become a rich food source for zooplankton, fish, and other marine species; however, some species can also deplete the water of oxygen and become toxic to marine life.
“Blooms of this type are common during the summer due to the coastal upwelling process,” said Bill Peterson of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, whose team samples the waters off Oregon every two weeks. “What is uncommon is the ability to see so much of the coast in a single image because fog and low-elevation clouds often obscure large-scale views.”
According to Peterson, water samples taken from ships on July 22, 2014, were dominated by diatoms—Dactyliosolen fragilissima, Lepotocylindricus sp, and three species of Thalassiosira—species that “occur commonly in the upwelling zone of the northern California Current.” Researchers counted one million to three million cells per liter of water.
Angelicque White, a marine biologist at Oregon State University, noted that satellites measure sea surface temperatures and fluorescence, a proxy for the amount of sunlight-harvesting chlorophyll in phytoplankton. These data allow researchers to detect upwelling events and blooms and study them over time. White’s group maintains a web site showing these data for the northwest coast.
Note how the abundance of phytoplankton appears to be reduced in the area just offshore from the Columbia River. It is possible that the outflow affected the amount of upwelling and mixing, or it changed the salinity, temperature, or other water properties nearby. As the river enters the ocean, it generates a freshwater plume that mixes with the surrounding seawater, diluting it and the phytoplankton contained within.
- Department of Ecology, State of Washington Marine Algae Blooms. Accessed July 30, 2014.
- NASA Earth Observatory (2010, July 13) What Are Phytoplankton?
- NASA Earth Observatory (2014, July) Global Maps: Chlorophyll
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.Instrument(s): Aqua - MODIS
Trying out new editing
One of Britain’s most important archaeological sites – a vast Iron Age hill fort at Hambledon Hill, Dorset – has been acquired by the National Trust.
It is the organisation’s most significant archaeological acquisition for more than 30 years. With £450,000 from bequests and from Natural…
We might be living in a brane around an event horizon of a collapsed hyperdimensional star that gave birth to the universe.
A new OpenSecrets report has revealed some of the biggest donors to anti-marijuana legalization campaigns and politicians — and there’s serious money involved. When marijuana reform laws are on the ballot in your state, you should know that people with a financial interest in keeping marijuana illegal are bankrolling those scare ads and anti-pot PSAs.
This is a great article about how people interact with the waves around them in unique ways. One of the best parts is the video of Richard Feynman speaking about all those waves!!!
Could a really clever person, Feynman asks, just by looking at the waves on the pool’s surface, imagine those waves rippling backwards and “figure out who jumped in where and when?” In other words, can somebody read a wave’s history?
As Feynman ponders his own question, he falls into a wonderful, deeply felt meditation on waves (hang on, you can it at the bottom of this post), and I thought, wait! I know about people who could ‘read’ waves — who could wind them backwards. They lived in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on islands barely 3 or 4 feet above sea level, and performed miracles of navigation.
Watercolors/gouaches of insects by Herman Henstenburgh (1667–1726)