Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms that float around the world’s oceans and bodies of water, converting sunlight into energy and acting as a base for the aquatic food chain. Though small in size, these tiny creatures have a huge effect on carbon cycling and are even believed to influence clouds and climate. Their monolithic power lies in their sheer numbers, which are seasonally boosted during huge natural blooms.
This image below, taken by NASA on September 23, 2015, shows one of these blooms in the North Atlantic Ocean in all its psychedelic glory.
The North Atlantic experiences these blooms in both spring and fall. While the spring blooms are usually more impressive, the weather conditions were nearly ideal when the Suomi NPP satellite was above this autumnal bloom.
The images were taken by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) onboard this satellite. This data was then processed to bring out the colors and more subtle features of the bloom. It’s this process that also brings out the striped “grainy” effect you can see on the image.
"The image does a beautiful job of showing the close link between ocean physics and biology," said Michael Behrenfeld, a phytoplankton ecologist at Oregon State University, in a NASA statement. "The features that jump out so clearly represent the influence of ocean eddies and physical stirring on the concentration of phytoplankton pigments and, possibly, colored dissolved organic matter."
Click here to see the full 3196 x 5346 pixels image.
Image credit: NASA