Shades of iridescent blue dominated the Atlantic Ocean east of the Falkland Islands in mid-December 2011. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image on December 14, 2011. Bright swirls form a giant arc hundreds of kilometers long.
The blue streak owed its existence to countless microscopic organisms. Phytoplankton—plant-like marine organisms that convert sunlight to energy—thrive in the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the Malvinas Current. Also known as the Falkland Current, it carries cold water along the southeast coast of South America. The phytoplankton-friendly conditions lead to frequent colorful blooms.
Millions of tiny, single-celled plant-like organisms ring the Falkland Islands in this photo-like image taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite on January 13, 2008. These organisms, called phytoplankton, reflect light, coloring the ocean with whimsical swirls of blue and green.