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Phytoplankton Photos Give Van Gogh a Run for His Money

The Atlantic Ocean has seen a colorful transformation thanks to some very artistic phytoplankton.


The Atlantic Ocean has seen a colorful transformation thanks to some very artistic phytoplankton. As part of an annual event, a large bloom of tiny plant-like organisms have traveled north, creating a beautiful "Starry Night"-like coloration just south of Iceland. Lucky for us, NASA's Terra satellite was able to capture the phenomenon, as the clouds parted just enough on June 3.

Photo Credit: NASA

Every March, phytoplankton react to lengthening days in the northern hemisphere by heightening photosynthetic activity, causing explosive growth of populations called a "bloom."

With nutrient concentrations that have grown over the winter months, the large bloom sweeps from the Sargasso Sea in a green wave, until the entire northern Atlantic Ocean is covered with thousands of microscopic marine plant life.

Photo Credit: NASA

This "green wave" in the sea comes from the chlorophyll that enables phytoplankton to capture solar energy, and then turn it into chemical energy. The variations in color come from the different types of phytoplankton that exist in the bloom.

These Vincent Van Goghs are the basis of marine food webs — and they do more than just color our oceans. They help make Icelandic waters one of the most productive fishing areas in the world.

Photo Credit: NASA

The wave will continue to roll northward, reaching the North Sea toward Spitzbergen and the fjords of Norway.

Talk about some manual labor. Like the saying goes, "The smallest oceanic plant life make the biggest impact.” Or something like that.

Learn about how you can help vulnerable marine animals by signing up with Oceana.

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