Heavy cloud covered much of the North Sea in mid-June, 2014, but where the clouds parted broad swirls of jewel tones revealed a massive phytoplankton bloom in the deep blue waters. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on June 15.
The North Sea has been home to extremely large and colorful blooms since at least early May of this year. Spring is the time when the upwelling of nutrients from swirling currents in the region combine with correct amounts of sunlight and warming water temperature to trigger the small plant-like organisms to reproduce explosively. When this occurs the colonies – or “blooms” as they are usually called – can be seen from space. Each organism lives only for a few days, but blooms can live for several weeks.