In the Northern Hemisphere summer of 2011, a large phytoplankton bloom persisted in the Barents Sea for weeks, still visible from the sky in September 2011. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image on September 10, 2011.
Fortified by plentiful nutrients, phytoplankton often thrive in the cool waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans. The milky blue hues of this phytoplankton bloom might come from coccolithophores—plankton with white calcite shells that appear blue in the ocean. Multiple coccolithophore blooms have been observed in this region. Diatoms may account for some of the other colors in this bloom.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott using information from Barney Balch, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences; and Norman Kuring, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.