Spiraling Plankton Eddies Off the Australian Coast

waswirl_amo_2013364_2While oceans in Northern latitudes are feeling the icy blast of winter, the antipodes are in the middle of a very hot summer.  Indeed, for Australia, there maybe too much of summer’s sun, as the continent suffers under a brutal heat wave.  The Southern oceans, at least, are in full bloom. Recently, NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on its aqua satellite captured dramatic images of a plankton bloom swept up in a large ocean eddy.

Spiral of Plankton

As the close-up image shows, an eddy is outlined by a milky green phytoplankton bloom. Eddies are masses of water that typically spin off of larger currents and rotate in whirlpool-like fashion. They can stretch for hundreds of kilometers and last for months. As these water masses stir the ocean, they can draw nutrients up from the deep, fertilizing the surface waters to create blooms in the open ocean. Other times, they carry in nutrients spun off of other currents.

Thanks to Alaric Bond for passing the story along.

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