Phenomena

Phytoplankton Flows

Phytoplankton, tiny plant-like organisms that live in ocean waters, act like nature’s tracer particles, making visible flows that would otherwise go unnoticed. In this satellite imagery, a phytoplankton bloom in the Southern Ocean off the coast of Antarctica highlights the turbulence of this region. Strong, steady winds and currents are typical for this area, which helps drive heat exchange between the ocean and atmosphere. The swirling eddies we see – many of them 100 km across! – are evidence of that turbulence. They’re also a sign of nitrogen and other nutrients getting mixed up in the action; it’s these nutrients that help generate the bloom in the first place.  (Image credit: N. Kuring/NASA Earth Observatory)

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