In a bay off the coast of northwest Africa, conditions are almost always just right for phytoplankton blooms.
Almost like clockwork, the right conditions develop in different parts of the world and vibrant blooms of phytoplankton color the oceans. Spring and summer, for example, are common times to see blooms in places like the North Sea or off the Alaskan coast. In a bay off the coast of northwest Africa, however, conditions are almost always just right.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image of colorful surface waters off of Mauritania on May 5, 2020. Scrolling through satellite images of the area reveals that there is nothing particularly unique about the May 5 image; the tongue of green water is present constantly throughout the year.
The color is due to a combination of phytoplankton and sediments. Physical samples collected in recent decades off Mauritania have turned up large numbers of diatoms, a type of microscopic algae with silica shells and plenty of chlorophyll. They are one of the most common types of phytoplankton in the ocean.
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Image via NASA Earth Observatory