EarthWatch: Phytoplankton in the Baltic Sea

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Nearly every summer, phytoplankton trace the sea’s currents, eddies, and flows. 

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory:
  • NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey:
  • Image of the Day story by Kathryn Hansen, with image interpretation by Norman Kuring/NASA GSFC, Ajit Subramaniam/LDEO/Columbia University, and Maren Voss/Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemuende
  • Adaptation to ViewSpace by Claire Blome, Margaret W. Carruthers, and Dani Player
  • Music from Music for Nonprofits

Text, Earth Watch, Exploring the Blue Planet by Satellite.
A satellite shot of Earth shows white patches against a sea of blue.
Text, Phytoplankton in the Baltic Sea.
A mass of green swirls sit against a dark background.
Text, Every summer, colorful blooms of phytoplankton flourish in the Baltic Sea.
The phytoplankton trace the sea's currents, eddies, and flows.
Earth Observatory. Earth observatory dot nasa dot gov. Operational Land Imager, Landsat 8. August 15, 2020.
This bloom is off the coast of southeast Sweden.
Like the whorls of fingerprints, no two phytoplankton blooms are exactly alike.
Note the dark, straight lines crossing these particular blooms. They are the wakes of the ships. Arrows point to two straight lines and label them Ship Tracks.
Text, Blooms in this region are mostly likely cyanobacteria, marine bacteria that capture and store solar energy through photosynthesis.
Phytoplankton are abundant in this region. In 2019, cyanobacteria blooms in the Baltic Sea equaled slightly less than half the size of Sweden.
Evidence from the seafloor indicates that cyanobacteria blooms have occurred in this region for thousands of years.
To learn more, go to Earth Observatory dot NASA dot gov.