Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Yes, but is it art?

I'm grateful to Phil Plait on the Bad Astronomy blog in Discover, for drawing attention to this beautiful satellite image of a phytoplankton bloom off the coast of Patagonia.   This is not a true colour photograph, which is probably just as well.  If the sea were that colour I think we'd all be in deep trouble! 

What's happening here is that a deep, cold current from the antarctic, rich in nutrients, is colliding with a warm current on the surface, coming down from the tropics.  The swirls and eddies mix the two, and along with abundant sunshine, provide excellent growing conditions for the phytoplankton which sit at the centre of the food web.  The phytoplankton bloom, providing food for all sorts of animals, from krill to fish to whales.

And isn't it pretty?

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