This image of the summer phytoplankton bloom in the Barents Sea off the northwesternmost corner of Russia was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on August 19, 2009. The milky-blue color that dominates the bloom suggests that it contains large numbers of phytoplankton called coccolithophores.
Phytoplankton are tiny plant-like organisms that are the foundation of the ocean food web. Like plants, they contain chlorophyll and other pigments that they use to harvest sunlight for photosynthesis. In northern waters, these organisms are starved for sunlight much of the year, but during the summer months, they explode in colorful blooms such as this one.