Earth  ID: 12176

How El Niño Impacts Marine Plant Life

El Niño years can have a big impact on the littlest plants in the ocean, and NASA scientists are studying the relationship between the two. Ocean color maps, based on a month’s worth of satellite data, show El Niño’s impact on phytoplankton.

In El Niño years, huge masses of warm water – equivalent to about half of the volume of the Mediterranean Sea – slosh east across the Pacific Ocean towards South America. That mass of warm water puts a lid on the normal currents of cold, deep water that typically rise to the surface along the equator and off the coast of Chile and Peru.

"An El Niño basically stops the normal upwelling," Uz said. "There’s a lot of starvation that happens to the marine food web." These small plants, called phytoplankton, are fish food – without them, fish populations drop, and the fishing industries that many coastal regions depend on can collapse.

 

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https://youtu.be/_titsRUo4t4


Credits

Sophia Roberts (USRA): Lead Producer
Stephanie Uz (GST): Scientist
Kate Ramsayer (Telophase): Science Writer
John Caldwell (AIMM): Videographer
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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Keywords:
SVS >> El Nino
SVS >> HDTV
SVS >> Phytoplankton
NASA Science >> Earth