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Milky Blue Water Near Prince of Wales Island

Milky Blue Water Near Prince of Wales Island

Phytoplankton are more than just nature’s watercolors: They’re
tiny ocean organisms that play a key role in Earth’s climate by removing
heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. These
tiny organisms live in the oceans, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing
oxygen, like plants on land. Earth’s oceans absorb about half of the carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere, which feeds phytoplankton.

This year, phytoplankton blooms popped up in the
panhandle region of Alaska and along the coast of British Columbia slightly
later in the year than the main blooms that tend to occur in May.


This image was acquired on July 21, 2018, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on
our Terra satellite and shows milky blue waters near Prince of Wales Island.
The discoloration is thought to be caused by a bloom of non-toxic phytoplankton
known as coccolithophores, specifically Emiliania
, which
like warm, stratified, and low nutrient conditions.

This week, our Export Processes in the Ocean from Remote Sensing
(EXPORTS) team is shipping out into the open ocean to study these important
organisms, sailing 200 miles west from Seattle into the northeastern Pacific

Read more about the image and learn more about the EXPORTS campaign here:

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