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SeaWiFS True Color and Chlorophyll
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science.
Every year in early summer, the ocean waters of
the North Atlantic and North Pacific spring to
life with blooms of microscopic plants called
phytoplankton. Throughout the winter there is not
enough sunlight to sustain large numbers of phytoplankton,
even though the water is rich in nutrients. When the
days get longer and sunlight becomes more direct, the
phytoplankton multiply rapidly. The chlorohpyll in
the masses of plants colors the water green.
This bloom in the Bering Sea, south
of the eastern tip of Siberia, is visible in true color
imagery from the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS.) It was
taken on June 15th and 16th, 2000. (June 16th east of the Intenational Dateline,
June 15th to the west) Although the true color image is spectacular, it does not
provide much information about the exact quantity of phytoplankton.
SeaWiFS mission is to measure the concentration of chlorophyll
in the water, which is proportional to the amount of phytoplankton.
With this data scientists study the distribution of life in the oceans,
the seasonal variability of the oceans, and how the ocean environment
is changing from year to year.