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North Atlantic Phytoplankton Bloom

(CN) - NASA has unveiled a satellite photo showing a phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic, taken in late September.

Each spring, the waters of the North Atlantic host a huge natural bloom of phytoplankton - microscopic plant-like organisms that are not only key for carbon cycling but may also influence clouds and climate.

Blooms also occur in fall, but weather and clouds make capturing a satellite photo of them difficult.

But on Sept. 23, the weather was good enough in the North Atlantic for the infrared imaging system on the Suomi NPP satellite to take a photo of a bloom.

"The image does a beautiful job of showing the close link between ocean physics and biology," said Michael Behrenfeld, a phytoplankton ecologist at Oregon State University. "The features that jump out so clearly represent the influence of ocean eddies and physical stirring on the concentration of phytoplankton pigments and, possibly, colored dissolved organic matter."

NASA sent researchers to the area to make ship- and aircraft-based measurements in hopes of understanding the annual cycles of ocean plankton and their relationship with atmospheric aerosols, the agency said.

The first leg of the five-year study ended Dec. 1.

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