Plankton are tiny all by their lonesome, but every summer these tiny marine organisms take over the Barents Sea north of Norway. On August 14, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this giant bloom stretching several hundred kilometers over the Scandinavian Peninsula.
Here's what you're seeing, courtesy of NASA's Earth Observatory. You can download a giant version of this image here — what makes this view particularly special is that the Barents Sea is covered by clouds for 80% of the summer:
In this image, the milky blue color strongly suggests that the bloom contains coccolithophores, microscopic plankton that are plated with white calcium carbonate. When viewed through ocean water, a coccolithophore bloom tends to be bright blue. The species is most likely Emiliana huxleyi, whose blooms tend to be triggered by high light levels during the 24-hour sunlight of Arctic summer. The variations in bloom brightness and color in satellite images is partly related to its depth: E. huxleyi, can grow abundantly as much as 50 meters below the surface.
Other colors in the scene may come from sediment or other species of phytoplankton, particularly diatoms. The Barents Sea usually witnesses two major bloom seasons each year, with diatoms peaking in May and June, then giving way to coccolithophores as certain nutrients run out and waters grow warmer and more layered (stratified).
[Spotted on Universe Today]