A massive phytoplankton bloom stained the waters of the Atlantic Ocean north of Iceland with brilliant jewel tones in late summer, 2014. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on August 2. Huge colonies of the floating, plant-like organisms create swirls of green, teal and turquoise and cover over 80% of the visible ocean off the northeast coast of Iceland.
Marine phytoplankton require just the right amount of sunlight, dissolved nutrients and water temperatures which are not too hot, nor too cold to spark explosive reproduction and result in blooms which can cover hundreds of square kilometers. Phytoplankton form the base of the marine food chain, and are a rich food source for zooplankton, fish and other marine species. Some species, however, can deplete the water of oxygen and may become toxic to marine life.