Image: Phytoplankton Bloom in the North Atlantic

May 26, 2010
Image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Late May 2010 brought peacock-hued swirls of blue and green to the North Atlantic. The iridescent waters formed a giant arc hundreds of kilometers across, extending from west of Ireland to the Bay of Biscay.

The (MODIS) on NASA’s captured this natural-color image on May 22, 2010. The vibrant colors are from tiny organisms, phytoplankton, that grow explosively in the North Atlantic—from Iceland to the shores of France - in the spring and summer.

Phytoplankton require nutrients to reproduce, and phytoplankton blooms are often tied to events that bring nutrients to the ocean surface, such as dust plumes. can also contribute nutrients for phytoplankton blooms. Researchers from the University of Hamburg’s Institute of Geophysics found that a 2008 eruption of the Kasotochi Volcano in the Aleutian Islands generated a massive phytoplankton bloom in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. They concluded that iron-rich ash falling on waters that are otherwise poor in iron can create conditions in which phytoplankton thrive.

MODIS acquired this image after weeks of eruptive activity at Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano. Considering that ash plumes from that volcano closed airspace over much of Europe, one might wonder whether ash provided fertilizer for this bloom. In this case, the answer is probably no. The North Atlantic Ocean already contains plenty of iron, and these waters experience massive phytoplankton blooms every spring and summer.

Explore further: Tsunami warning issued for parts of Pacific after earthquake

More information: Langmann, B., Zaksek, K., Hort, M., Duggen, S. (2010, April 27). Volcanic ash as fertiliser for the surface ocean. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 10, 3891-3899.

Related Stories

Summer Storms Could Mean More Dead Zones

Jul 11, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- It's summertime and people are flocking to the coasts around the country. But when summer storms arrive, it's not only beach-goers who are affected; the rains can also have an impact on living ...

Recommended for you

Volcanic eruptions durably impact North Atlantic climate

23 minutes ago

Particles emitted during major volcanic eruptions cool the atmosphere due to a 'parasol' effect that reflects sunlight. The direct impact of these particles in the atmosphere is fairly short, lasting two ...

Image: Aral Sea from orbit

Mar 27, 2015

This multitemporal Sentinel-1A radar image shows the Aral Sea, located on the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.