Bloom in the Barents Sea

  • Released Monday, October 21st, 2013
  • Updated Tuesday, November 14th, 2023 at 12:24AM

Brilliant shades of blue and green explode across the Barents Sea in this natural-color image taken on August 17, 2011. The color was created by a massive bloom of phytoplankton that are common in the area each August. Plankton blooms spanning hundreds or even thousands of kilometers occur across the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans every year. Many species thrive in the cooler ocean waters, which tend to be richer in nutrients and plant life than tropical waters. In this image, the milky blue color strongly suggests that the bloom contains coccolithophores, microscopic plankton that are plated with white calcium carbonate. When viewed through ocean water, a coccolithophore bloom tends to be bright blue. The species is most likely Emiliana huxleyi, whose blooms tend to be triggered by high light levels during the 24-hour sunlight of Arctic summer. The variations in bloom brightness and color in satellite images is partly related to its depth: E. huxleyi, can grow abundantly as much as 50 meters below the surface.

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NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center