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Summer Ocean Blooms: Earth Image of the Week January 7, 2011
Satellite Image of plankton bloom
Scientists used seven separate wavelengths of light in this image to highlight the differences in the plankton communities across this swath of ocean.
The current midsummer sunshine basking the Southern Hemisphere prompts blooms of plant life in water as well as on land.

While excessive heat brought on by the high sun angles caused blackouts and record power consumption over the holidays in Buenos Aires, the early summer warmth also created massive phytoplankton blooms off the coast of southern Argentina’s Patagonia region.

The image to the right was captured on December 21, 2010, by NASA’s MODIS instrument orbiting aboard the agency's Aqua satellite.

The sun was the highest point in the sky for the year on that date over Argentina.

That provided the tiny plants known as phytoplankton the energy to blossom into huge ribbons that appeared in breathtaking beauty from outer space.

These plants form the base of the ocean food web, and become nourishment for everything from tiny animals known as zooplankton to fish and whales.

The milky green and blue bloom developed in an area known as the Brazil-Falklands Confluence. It's where the warm salty waters of the subtropical Brazil Current flow south and meet the colder, fresher waters brought north from the Southern Ocean by the Falklands (Malvinas) Current.

Where these currents collide along the continental shelf is known to oceanographers as a shelf-break front. Here, turbulent eddies form and pull nutrients up from the deep ocean. Also, the Rio de la Plata runs off the land and deposits nitrogen and iron-laden sediment into the ocean just north of the area shown in the image.

Full story and image: NASA