Ocean Color Image Gallery

Category: All Gallery Images


SeaWiFS images of Afghanistan on Monday 8 October 2001

Afghanistan - Monday 8 October 2001

At approximately noon on Monday, 8 October 2001, SeaWiFS captured this remarkably clear view of Afghanistan and the surrounding region.


SeaWiFS images of New York - 12 September 2001

The Morning After: New York City - Wednesday, September 12, 2001

While Hurricane Erin continued to rage just offshore, smoke from the devastation that took place in Lower Manhattan early Tuesday morning could still be seen in Wednesday's SeaWiFS image of the Eastern United States.On Tuesday morning, just hours after the unimaginable became a reality, smoke could be seen drifting south over the New Jersey coast in this close-up of the SeaWiFS image taken at 12:30 pm on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

While the power of nature is oftentimes overwhelming, it is humankind's ability to destroy itself that these images so graphically documents.


chlorophyll distribution north of the Gulf Stream on 11 Aug 2002 chlorophyll distribution north of the Gulf Stream on 12 Aug 2002

Three Clear Days off the eastern United States and Canada

Clear skies revealed the highly productive waters off the eastern United States and Canada to SeaWiFS over the past week.While the images appear remarkably similar at first glance, closer examination reveals significant differences in both the distribution and abundance of phytoplankton as indicated by the chlorophyll-a concentrations presented here.


Canada and New England

This image of the Canadian Maritime provinces and New England was collected on Friday, July 20, 2001. To get a closer look at the Bay of Fundy or Cape Cod or the phytoplankton blooms in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, just click on the appropriate portion of the above image.


Spring Returns to the Northern Hemisphere

The greening of the northern hemisphere's land and ocean as the sun moves north of the equator can be seen in these SeaWiFS images of the global biosphere. The changes in land vegetation are represented by the SeaWiFS-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index and SeaWiFS-derived chlorophyll-a concentrations in the ocean show the development of the spring bloom in the North Atlantic ocean. Being able to monitor the earth's biological response to the changing environment is critical to our ability to predict how the earth's ability to support life may change in the future.< d> SeaWiFS Biosphere March 2002
SeaWiFS Biosphere April 2002
SeaWiFS Biosphere May 2002

In the oceans, the regions with the lowest chlorophyll-a concentrations are shown in purple (southeast Pacific Ocean) and deep blue while the lighter blues, greens, yellows and reds represent increasing phytoplankton abundance. On the land, the densely vegetated areas are the deepest green with the deserts colored brown and the white areas representing the snow covered regions of the world. Colorbars for these images are available here




United States

SeaWiFS data from ground stations in Virginia, Florida, Mississippi and California collected on March 6,2000 contributed to this portrait of North America . Click on any portion of the image above to view a 512 x 512 extract at approximately 1 kilometer resolution. Some parts of the image may be of lower resolution because of the position across the swath. The full image (6 MB) is available here.



Western Europe

Much of northwestern Europe had clear skies on Thursday, October 16, 2003 giving SeaWiFS a good view of the varied geography including: the snow covered Alps in the lower right corner, the dark strips of the Black Forest and the Vosges along the east and west edges of the lighter colored Rhine valley, the lighter Champagne region cut by the Aisne, Marne, and Seine rivers flowing west toward the grayish area that is Paris, the turbid, tidally-mixed waters of the English Channel and North Sea, and the jagged coastline of northern Scotland.


chlorophyll distribution north of the Gulf Stream on 11 May 2002

On May 11, 2002 clear skies revealed the highly productive waters off the eastern United States and Canada to the SeaWiFS radiometer. The two images provided here are derived from the same raw data, but are processed in different ways.

The first image is a quasi-true-color view formed by using the red, green, and blue spectral bands from the sensor as the red, green, and blue components of the image. The second image is a pseudo-color representation of sea surface chlorophyll concentrations overlaid on the quasi-true-color image.

You will note that the chlorophyll image brings out much more of the complexity in this part of the Atlantic Ocean. In this view the waters over Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine exhibit the high chlorophyll concentrations that mark thriving phytoplankton populations which are the base of the food web for most of the rest of those ecosystems. To the south, chlorophyll concentrations decrease rapidly as one crosses the northern boundary of the meandering Gulf Stream. To the east of Georges Bank one of the meanders has pinched off into a large warm core ring.

One thing that the chlorophyll concentration data do not tell us is how different species of phytoplankton are distributed in an area. You can get some sense of this by looking at the quasi-true-color image and noting that the colors of the various blooms differ from each other. To the southeast of Long Island we see an aquamarine hue. Over the top of Georges Bank the color is more yellow-green. Around the edge of the Bank and in the middle of the Gulf of Maine, a reddish tinge is visible. These color differences likely reflect differences in species composition and in depth distributions of the cells whose pigments and light scattering characteristics are detected by the orbiting SeaWiFS.


SeaWiFS Image of Florida Bay 4 Feb 2002

Mysterious Black Water blankets Florida Bay

A large mass of black water has swept through Florida Bay and according to reports, has broken up into smaller pockets aggregated along the north side of the 126-mile long Florida Keys. First seen in late December/early January, scientists have sampled the water in hopes of identifying the source of this event. The SeaWiFS image (above) taken on February 4, 2002 at the height of the event, clearly shows different colors of water in Florida Bay. It is interesting to compare the truecolor image with the SeaWiFS-derived chlorophyll image from 4 February with the true color and chlorophyll images taken on 21 March. In addition to the scientific interest in this phenomenon, there appear to be some serious ecological consequences, including the apparent impact on the coral reefs as well. Recent evidence points to the balck water being associated with a large algal bloom fed by increased nutrient input from a land-based source. For the most up to date information on the event click here The development, growth and decline of the event can be seen in the images from 9 January, 4 February and 28 March 2002

colorbar for chlorophyll_a images


SeaWiFS image of the Bering Strait on July 8/9, 2001

Where Tomorrow Begins

Plankton blooms and sediment plumes mark the passage of water through the Bering Strait separating Russia from the United States in this SeaWiFS image taken on July 8/9, 2001. The International Dateline cuts between Little Diomede Island (today, in the east) and Big Diomede Island (tomorrow, in the west) which can be seen in this remarkably cloud free image of the Strait.


Grand Banks of NewFoundland

The water over the Grand Banks appears milky green in this image. During the winter, large blooms of phytoplankton are not common, so the cause of this bright patch of water is more likely the resuspension of sediment from the sea floor during the passage of a storm. This assumption is supported by the fact that the southern and eastern edges of the patch roughly mark the edge of the continental shelf where the water becomes too deep for surface wave action to stir the bottom. turbid water over the Grand Banks

The long, linear, east-west-oriented clouds visible over the bright water are the contrails of jets which routinely traverse this air space on their way between Europe and North America.

This image was collected on 27 January 2003. You may click on it to retrieve a higher-resolution version (2760 x 1800 pixels, 808 kilobytes).


SeaWiFS Six Year Global Chlorophyll

Six Years in the Making - and now, One More Year

Just in time for the holidays, NASA is pleased to announce that a new contract has been signed with ORBIMAGE to acquire one additional year of SeaWiFS data starting on 24 December 2003 under the same terms and conditions as the previous agreement. NASA anticipates a resumption of global data (GAC) acquisition starting at approximately noon, 24 December 2003.

Launched on August 1, 1997, SeaWiFS began collecting global data operationally in mid-September and has continued to perform flawlessly for the past six years. The image above is the average ocean chlorophyll-a concentration as derived from SeaWiFS since launch. What is clear from this image is the tight coupling between the physical and chemical processes in the ocean and their resulting biological signature. What SeaWiFS has allowed us to do as never before, is to not only monitor the short-term spatial and temporal variability in the ocean's biology, but to have the first well calibrated, long-term data set that allows us to quantify the ocean's biological response to global change. Images and digital data sets based upon the SeaWiFS climatology for seven different geophysical parameters at a number of different temporal scales are available HERE.

One of the interesting insights that came out of the generation of this chlorophyll-a climatology is the identification of the region of the world's oceans that has the lowest chlorophyll concentration. That area, slightly west of Easter Island in the South Pacific centered at 26 degrees South and 115 degrees West had an average concentration of 0.0186 milligrams chlorophyll-a per cubic meter.

You can download aPNG-formatted or JPG-formatted full resolution version of the image above as well as a version centered at 180 degrees longitude (PNG or JPG) and an equirectangular projection of the image and the digital data in HDF-format.


true color view of Baja blooms pseudo color view of Baja blooms

Baha Blooms

Above are two different views of the waters around the Baja Peninsula on August 10, 2003. The view on the left shows the ocean in a semi-natural color. Subtle shades of green amidst the blue hint at the presence of phytoplankton blooms.

The image on the right provides a clearer picture of the distribution of these phytoplankton by showing where the surface waters contain much or little of the photosynthetic pigment, chlorophyll.


SeaWiFS image of the Bering Sea on June 7, 2001

Mystery Plankton Bloom in the Bering Sea

SeaWiFS images taken on June 3, 2001 and June 4, 2001 and June 5, 2001 at 4 PM and June 5, 2001 at 5:30 PM and June 6, 2001 show the development of a large bloom of reddish-hued phytoplankton spreading across the Bering Sea. This bloom is being mixed with the lighter colored plankton assemblages (most likey made up of different species) that fill much of the region. (All dates and times are given in Alaska Daylight Time.)


band of elevated chlorophyll west of Florida

This image was collected on August 1, 2003 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying aboard the Aqua satellite.

The SeaWiFS Project has begun processing MODIS data as part of a prototyping activity to demonstrate capabilities needed to support an ocean color mission scheduled for launch towards the end of this decade.

The data from which the image at left was made are available via the "Global Ocean Color Browse Utility" hyperlink below. Alternatively, you may go directly to the page displaying the Aqua-MODIS scenes collected on August 1, 2003 and click on the Gulf of Mexico.


Barents Sea Plankton Bloom

Locator map for Barents Sea Plankton Bloom Barents Sea Plankton Bloom

A massive plankton bloom of what are most likely coccolithophores was observed on Wednesday, August 21, 2002 by SeaWiFS spreading across the southern half of the Barents Sea. SeaWiFS has observed similar blooms in this region over the past few years although we are not sure what, if any, ground truth information may exist to help confirm these observations.


Islands in the Stream - The Galapagos

Over the course of less than two weeks, SeaWiFS captured the development of a large plume of plankton-rich water straddling the equator and extending several hundred kilometers downstream from the island of Isabela in the Galapagos Archipelago.

The large phytoplankton bloom to the west of Isabela Island is a consistent feature, constantly changing in size and shape, that sustains an ecosystem like none other. Nowhere else in the world will corals, hammerhead sharks, flightless cormorants, penguins and fur seals be found upon the same sub tidal reef! Cold water from the submarine Cromwell current deflects against the Galapagos Platform bringing trace elements such as iron into the sunlit coastal waters. This seems to trigger these huge events. To the east wind driven upwelling along the equator also encourages production.

Galapagos Time Series

Such high primary production also provides for local semi-intensive sea-cucumber, fin-fish and rock lobster fisheries. The future of the Galapagos marine reserve depends upon the sustainable management of these resources and improved understanding of the natural environment. In an area also renowned for the devastating impact of large El Niño events, such human impacts might tip the sensitive balance between extinction and survival. The marine scientists of the Charles Darwin Research Station continue using SeaWiFS data as a valuable tool to assess the part such productivity plays in maintaining the unique biodiversity and endemism in the marine reserve.

The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) for the Galapagos Islands works together with the Galapagos National Park Service towards providing the scientific advice needed for sustainable development and management of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. For more information about Galapagos and the ongoing work of the CDF please visit http://www.darwinfoundation.org/.

This sequence of images acquired on May 29th, June 8th and finally on June 10, 2003 not only document the development of the plume in the western part of the region, but also caught the decrease in chlorophyll concentrations in the east. Subsequent images taken on June 11, June 13, June 15 and June 17, 2003 show how quickly conditions around the Galapagos can change.


SeaWiFS image of the Bering Sea on June 7, 2001

Mystery Plankton Bloom in the Bering Sea

SeaWiFS images taken on June 7, 2001 and June 6, 2001 and June 5, 2001 show the presence of a large bloom of reddish-hued phytoplankton spreading across the Bering Sea. This bloom is being mixed with the lighter colored plankton assemblages (most likey made up of different species) that fill much of the region.


SeaWiFS image of PatagonianShelfBloom

Patagonian Shelf bloom

SeaWiFS collected this remarkably clear view of the ocean east of Argentina on 27 Nov. 2001 showing the turbulent region of the confluence of the Brazil/Falkland (Malvinas) Currents. The bright turquoise waters of what is most likely a coccolithophore plankton bloom contrast dramatically with the cold, deep blue waters further offshore. The Falkland Islands (Isla Malvinas) can be seen in the southern part of the image.


SeaWiFS images of Lake Michigan Bloom

Lake Michigan Blooms: July 13 - September 7, 2001

The water in Lake Michigan has gone from dark blue-green to bright turquoise again this summer as seen in this times series of true color SeaWiFS images acquired between July 13 - October 11, 2001. SeaWiFS imaged a similar event in 1999. Two possible explanations for the brightening were advanced in 1999: a large bloom of cyanobacteria such as microcystis or an inorganic precipitation of calcium carbonate triggered by warming surface waters. A variety of atmospheric aerosols and clouds over the lake also effect the perceived brightness of the water from image to image in this 2001 time series.


Cyanobacteria in the Baltic Sea

A toxic bloom in the Baltic Sea of the cyanobacterium, Nodularia spumigena,has been reported by Agence France-Presse.A more recent Reuters report indicates that the problem continues. Both reports warn of the harmful effects of the bloom, and both reports link the increasing incidence of such blooms to increased nutrient runoff into the Baltic Sea. The Reuters report further warns that fish stocks are being depleted as the dying algae consume the oxygen that the fish need for survival.

Baltic Sea cyanobacteria bloom

This image was collected on July 24, 2003.


Agulhas Return Current

When the southwestward flowing Agulhas Current off of southeastern Africa meets the Antarctic Circumpolar Current it gets retroflected back eastward as the Agulhas Return Current. The interactions of the various currents and the sea floor topography produce meanders in the return current such as the one visible on the right.

The colorsin this image depict the elevated chlorophyll concentrations associated with the interacting currents.

waves in the Agulhas Return Current

This image was collected on February 26, 2003. Click on it to download a wider view of the region (2424 x 3168 pixels, 1.67 megabytes) which also shows Tropical Cyclone Japhet swirling farther to the north.


Agulhas Retroflection

high chlorophyll in Agulhas Retroflection convergence zone

This scene, collected on May 15th, 2003, shows a region of high chlorophyll concentration protruding jet-like from the southern end of the African continent.This feature exists in a dynamic region of colliding currents and changing sea floor topography. Major currents in the region include the Agulhas, Antarctic Circumpolar, and Benguela currents. Additional imagery and analyses can be found on the Oceanspace website in South Africa.

The same oceanographic conditions prevailed in March of 1999 when a SeaWiFS image very similar to the one above was collected.


SeaWiFS View of Norway on 25 March 2001

This SeaWiFS image taken on Sunday, 25 March 2001 shows the extent of the massive bloom of poisonous algae that is threatening thousands of tons of salmon that are farmed in waters off the southern coast of Norway.


South Atlantic Bight

As scientists converge on Miami, Florida this week to discuss the current and future status of biological remote sensing at the first combined NASA Ocean Color Research Team meeting, SeaWiFS captured the biological signature of the dynamic conditions along the eastern coast of the United States on Sunday, 13 April 2003.


Gulf of Aden

Between Yemen and Somalia the waters of the Gulf of Aden swirl in topographically squared off eddies which are made visible by the chlorophyll-bearing phytoplankton that they carry.

This image was collected on November 1, 2003. Click on the above image to download a broader view of the region.


Equatorial Pacific Waves

Catch the Wave: Equatorial Pacific Waves

This eleven-day SeaWiFS chlorophyll-a composite January 8-18, 2002 shows the rather remarkable development of a series of equatorial Pacific tropical instability waves. The enhanced chlorophyll concentrations associated with the waves extend from the region just west of the Galapagos Islands along the equator to the dateline - a distance of nearly 10,000 kilometers.


Dust blows across the Korean Peninsula on 20 March 2001 A different Asian dust cloud approaches the Pacific Northwest on 11 April 2001 Asian dust over the Great Lakes and the swollen Mississippi River on 17 April 2001
20 March 2001< d> 11 April 2001< d> 17 April 2001< d>

As in previous years, satellite remote sensors, including SeaWiFS, have once again tracked vast clouds of dust and anthropogenic aerosols en route from Asia to North America. The haze that has been reported over various parts of the United States and Canada this week (third week of April 2001) has been traced to Asian origins between the sixth and ninth of April, and even though the amount of dust involved in this single event might seem more than enough for one year, SeaWiFS has been recording such dust storms in Asia for the past several months.

SeaWiFS images acquired on 28 March 2001 and 19 April 2001 clearly show the change in the atmosphere over the eastern United States.

Extensive textual descriptions of the most recent trans-Pacific dust transport plus images and animations are available at http://www.nrlmry.navy.mil/aerosol/Case_studies/20010413_epac/.

An aerosol characterization experiment is currently taking place in the midst of all the dust. See http://saga.pmel.noaa.gov/aceasia/ for a list of participants and the types of measurements that are being made.


This image of the western United States and Mexico was collected on Sunday, February 10, 2002. It shows that strong winds were carrying dust and smoke from Southern California and Baja long distances out over the Pacific Ocean.

These same winds were responsible for fanning the flames of fires that destroyed some homes north of San Diego that same day.

The full-resolution image (1 megabyte, 2360 by 2900 pixels) can be retrieved by clicking on the image at right.

wind-borne dust and smoke from Baja

China haze

Dust from China : 12 February 2002

Considerable quantities of dust are visible in yesterday's SeaWiFS image of eastern Asia. This view -- looking obliquely towards the west -- shows a large dust cloud crossing the Yellow Sea and passing south of the Korean Peninsula on its way to southern Japan.

The air looks much clearer over snow-covered Russia and northern China, visible on the right in the full-resolution image (1.3MB - 3382 x 1683)


Dust Over the Mediterranean

Sahara dust over the Mediterranean Sea

Strong winds were bearing much dust from Libya and Egypt northeastward across the Mediterranean Sea on February 5, 2003. You may click on the above image to retrieve a higher-resolution version (2560 x 1900 pixels, 818 kilobytes).


Northwest African Dust Storm
SeaWiFS daily image 2 march 2003Northwest African Dust Storm Image

A massive dust storm erupted off the northwestern coast of Africa over this past weekend and seemd to be at its maximum intensity on Sunday, 2 March 2003 as seen in this SeaWiFS true color image. Unlike a previously observed storm in February 2000 which maintained itself over many days, this current storm seems to be of somewhat lesser intensity.


22 Feb. 2001 eruption plume from Miyake Jima

Mount Oyama on Miyake Jima south of the island of Honshu, Japan appears to be erupting in these images collected just after local noon on February 22nd and 27th, 2001. The emissions from the volcano can be seen spreading over a wide area -- first to the west and then to the northeast of the island.

Spectacular photographs have been taken during previous eruptions of Mount Oyama.

Tokyo is at the top of the rightmost bay (Tokyo Wan) visible in these images.

The snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji -- Japan's best-known volcano -- is visible above the leftmost bay (Suruga Wan) in these images.

27 Feb. 2001 eruption plume from Miyake Jima
22 February 2001< d> 27 February 2001< d>

SeaWiFS image of Iceland winds off icealand

On Tuesday, 15 May 2001, SeaWiFS caught this view of what appear to be large plumes of dust blowing off the south coast of Iceland. The corresponding NCEP wind field shows a region of intense wind centered directly over Iceland. Large flows of sea ice can also be seen in the strait between Greenland and Iceland.


This SeaWiFS image, collected on 1 September 2000, shows heavy concentrations of wind-borne dust being blown along the Iran/Iraq border and out over the northern end of the Persian Gulf. Much of the area over which the wind was blowing on that day had been -- as recently as thirty years before -- marshland.

The majority of the former marshland is now dry. Recently released images from Landsat and other satellites have alerted researchers and policy makers to the severity of the problem.

dust storm at the northern end of the Persian Gulf

Clicking on the image at left will download a larger version (2688 by 2468n pixels, 784 kilobytes) of the SeaWiFS image that includes the entire watershed of the imperilled marshlands.

On 22 May 2001, SeaWiFS recorded another dust storm very similar to the one pictured at left.

The following links provide more information about the drying of the marshlands that has been recorded by Landsat and other satellites.


Middle Eastern Dust Storm

On March 19, 2003 a large dust storm was blowing across Iraq and the northern end of the Arabian Peninsula hiding the ground from view.

By March 20, 2003 the dust storm had subsided as can be seen in a separate color-enhanced SeaWiFS image.

The above image was collected on March 21, 2003.It shows air that is still a bit dusty over the Persian Gulf plus the first hint of smoke from oil well fires (click on the image to see the full-resolution version).


SeaWiFS image of the Mt. Etna eruption : 27 July 2001

Eruption of Mount Etna and Libyan Sand Storm on Friday, July 27, 2001

SeaWiFS caught the continuing eruption of Mount Etna today as well as a large sand storm blowing across the Mediterranean from the Libyan desert. An earlier SeaWiFS image taken in the afternoon on Tuesday, July 24, 2001 shows the large plume of ash and smoke blowing towards the southeast from the eruption of Mount Etna on the island of Sicily.


ash plume from Mt. Etna eruption

Mt. Etna on the island of Sicily has started erupting again. The above image of the eruption plume was captured on 28 October 2002.


Mt. Etna Eruption - 30 October 2002

ash plume from Mt. Etna eruption

Mt. Etna on the island of Sicily has started erupting again. The above SeaWiFS image of the eruption plume was captured on Wednesday,30 October 2002 at 11:07 GMT. You can also see the image from earlier in the week taken on 28 October 2002.


Sahara Sand Siphon

A low pressure system over the Atlantic Ocean to the west of Portugal on October 30, 2001 has generated southerly winds over northwest Africa which have transported large quantities of dust from the Sahara Desert to the skies of western Europe -- blanketing northern France and southern England with brownish haze.
Click on the above image for a full-resolution version (2.58 megabytes).


Early in the afternoon of Monday, November 25, 2002, SeaWiFS flew over the United States' West Coast and collected the data used to make these two images.

The left-hand image is a quasi-true-color rendering of the information. Not much detail is visible in the water, but several other features can be made out. Dust and haze partly obscure southern California. (These aerosols were lofted by Santa Ana winds that were reported to top 75 miles per hour in places on Monday.) Several long smoke plumes drift westward across the Sacramento Valley from fires in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The mountain tops themselves are highlighted white with snow. Farther north individual volcanos are made visible by their snow caps.

quasi-true-color view of U.S. West Coast chlorophyll concentrations off the U.S. West Coast

By applying atmospheric corrections and other algorithms to the SeaWiFS data, one can bring out a wealth of detail in the chlorophyll distributions in the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean. In this pseudo-color depiction, purples and blues represent lower concentrations; cyan and green -- moderate concentrations; and yellow, orange, and red -- high concentrations. Note that the dust from southern California is thick enough in places that current algorithms are unable to determine chlorophyll concentrations in the water below.

Clicking on either image will download the corresponding full-resolution version. A chlorophyll color legend is included in the large version of the right-hand image.

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This is the Boxing Day (26 December 2002) view of eastern North America compliments of SeaWiFS. Snow cover is visible in several areas where the cloud cover does not obscure it (e.g. New England and parts of Canada.)

Due east of Long Island, the center of a low pressure system is visible in the cloud pattern.

Clicking on the image at right will download a full-resolution version (1.89 megabytes).

SeaWiFS view of eastern North America on 26 Dec. 2002

It is with great pleasure that the SeaWiFS Project is able to report that late on December 19, 2002 -- just two hours before the expiration of the old contract -- NASA and ORBIMAGE reached an agreement which was finalized the next day, providing NASA's research program with ONE additional year of SeaWiFS data.



United Kingdom Haze

In mid April large amounts of dust from Africa plus other aerosols passed over and around western Europe. Some of that haze is visible in the view of the United Kingdom at right which was collected on April 18, 2003.

What appear to be large smoke plumes originating in England and Scotland may also be contributing to the general haziness in the region.

Click on the image at left to download a broader view of the region on April 18th.

You may also download SeaWiFS images of the hazy skies for the following days.


El Reventador (Ecuador) and Mt. Etna (Italy) Eruptions

ash plume from El Reventador volcanoash plume from Mt. Etna eruption


Ecuador's President, Gustavo Noboa, declared a state of emergency that shut down the nation's capital on Monday, as tons of gray ash from a massive volcanic eruption engulfed the Andean city. El Reventador volcano erupted on Sunday, 3 November after lying quietly for 26 years, shooting a mushroom cloud nearly 10 miles into the sky just east of the capital, Quito.

Mt. Etna on the island of Sicily has started erupting again. The above SeaWiFS image of the eruption plume was captured on Wednesday, 30 October 2002 at 11:07 GMT. You can also see the image from earlier in the week taken on 28 October 2002.


SeaWiFS Image of giant iceberg B22 taken on March 19,2002

Giant Iceberg breaks off from the Antarctic mainland

This SeaWiFS image taken on Tuesday, 19 March 2002 s (roughly 46 nautical miles long and 25 nautical miles wide) known as B-22 that recently broke off the Thwaites Ice Tongue in Antarctica. A more detailed story and additional images about this event can be found in a NOAA press release and on the Earth Observatory.


SeaWiFS image of Iceland

SeaWiFS View of Iceland

On the last day of February 2002, SeaWiFS caught this almost cloud-free view of the snow and ice covered peaks of Iceland in an otherwise cloud-covered North Atlantic. The long comma-shaped cloud band that can be seen in the full image arcs across the North Atlantic to the south of the island and terminates over Ireland.


The snow storm that crossed the middle and eastern United States on December 4th and 5th left a footprint across the country which was visible to SeaWiFS as it flew overhead on December 6, 2002. < d> band of snow covere across middle and eastern U.S. Click on the image at left to download the full-resolution version (3.45 megabytes, 4260 by 4100 pixels) of the image. < d>

This image of the eastern United States was collected on Friday, January 4, 2002. It shows the extent of the snow fall from storms that blew through the area on January 2nd and 3rd.

The full-resolution image (1.62 megabytes, 2460 by 3500 pixels) can be retrieved by clicking on the animated image at right.

snowfall in the eastern U.S.A.

SeaWiFS views of San Diego Fire on 3 Jan 2001
SeaWiFS captured the outbreak of the large fires to the West of San Diego, California on Wednesday, 3 January 2001
Full Resolution Images for January 3, 2001 and January 4, 2001.

SeaWiFS image of the White Sea on 5 May 2001

Russian expert says 200,000 seals face starvation

According to a wire service report, some 200,000 young seals face starvation after becoming trapped on ice in the White Sea of northern Russia. The seals, born last year, should have floated on the ice out to the nearby Barents Sea, but the ice this year has remained stuck to the shores of the White Sea.
A SeaWiFS image taken on Saturday, 5 May 2001 shows the large sheet of ice and the clear waters of the Barents Sea.

Larger version of the image

East Coast 17 January 2003

White on White

The northeastern coast of the United States was a study in white on Friday, 17 January 2003 as seen in this SeaWiFS image. An overnight blanket of snow covers the entire coast except for a small area just south of the Chesapeake Bay while the storm clouds have moved offshore.


This pair of SeaWiFS images taken on August 2 and 22 clearly show how much the western wildfires in Idaho and Montana have spread over the past three weeks.

Tuesday, 29 August 2000
1:Idaho and Montana
2: Western United States

Smoke over the western U.S.A. on August 2 and 22, 2000
Previous Images:
August 27, 22, 21, 20
1615, 14 10,8 7, 6, 2

The National Interagency Fire Center's website features a map of the most recent fires.

Image of Algerian coast
Smoke from fires along the Algerian Coast and dust storms
blanketed the Mediterranean Sea on Friday 25 August 2000


SeaWiFS image of Western US smoke: 16 August 2001

Smoke from the Western U.S. wildfires: August 16, 2001

This SeaWiFS image, collected on August 16, 2001, shows the pall of smoke from the numerous wildfires that are currently burning across a number of states in the western United States. Looking westward towards the Rocky Mountains and the west coast, the smoke is particularly dense in the Flathead lake region.


On May 4, 2002, smoke from forest fires in southeastern Australia filled the air over Bass Strait. Bass Strait separates Tasmania -- the large island in the center of the image -- from mainland Australia in the upper left corner of the image.

smoke from fires in southeastern Australia over Bass Strait

Southern California Smoke

Flames fanned by Santa Ana winds generated large quantities of smoke over the weekend. By noon on Sunday, October 26, 2003, the smoke covered over 150,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean to the southwest of the fires. The flames continued to produce large plumes of dark smoke far out into the ocean on Monday, October 27 and Tuesday, October 28. By noon of Wednesday, October 29 the winds had changed direction causing the smoke to drift over southern Nevada and northwestern Arizona. A day later, on Thursday, October 30 the smoke was visible over the Midwest. By noon of Friday, October 31 there was smoke over the Gulf of Maine.


Forest Fires in the Southwestern United States

The Rodeo and Chediski fires in Arizona continued to send smoke skyward on June 24, 2002 when SeaWiFS acquired this image. The plumes from those fires stretch to the northeast in a broad swath to cross the state line into New Mexico. The densest part of this smoke pall is from 170 to 180 kilometers long and from 50 to 60 kilometers across.

The grayish haze from other fires in the Four Corners region is also visible.

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smoke from the Rodeo, Chediski, and other fires in the Four Corners area

Click on the image at left for the full resolution image. (1.72 megabytes)

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smoke from northeast Asia 17 May 2002 smoke from northeast Asia 18 May 2002
17 May 2002< d> 18 May 2002< d>

Extensive forest fires in eastern Russia have been sending large volumes of smoke into the atmosphere. That smoke is easy to see in these two SeaWiFS images against the relatively dark background of the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The smoke pall covered about six million square kilometers (about two million square miles) of sea surface on these two consecutive days.

One of the source areas for the smoke is visible as a large, off-white cloud near the center left side of the 17 May image.

During the time between the two images, winds cleared the air over much of the Sea of Okhotsk revealing colorful phytoplankton blooms in the water around the Kamchatka Peninsula.


smoke from New South Wales, Australia

Smoke drifts eastward from New South Wales

Numerous fires near Sydney, Australia have been sending vast quantities of smoke into the skies over the Pacific Ocean. The image above -- collected on December 26, 2001 -- is part of a larger scene which shows that the smoke plume extends right across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand (under clouds). The center of the low pressure system that helped transport the smoke eastward and then southeastward can be seen to the southeast of Tasmania in the larger scene.

At the time that this scene was collected, the beginning of Leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race was under way with eight yachts sailing from Sydney to Hobart, Tasmania.

The SeaWiFS Project is helping support the Volvo Ocean Adventure (the educational component of the Volvo Ocean Race) by providing content, images and near real-time maps of ocean color for the regions of the world's ocean that the yachts will be sailing in. Each of the yachts is equipped with an instrument package to measure sea surface temperature and ocean color (from above-water radiometers), and these measurements are telemetered back to the race office several times per day. For nine long months, eight yachts will sail through some of the most demanding ocean conditions as they circle the globe with SeaWiFS keeping an eye on them every day.


Fire and Ice in the Eastern United States
MSNBC photo of Staten Island fire SeaWiFS image of smoke plume from Staten Island fire

By early afternoon of February 21, 2003, a fire on Staten Island, New York had produced a 150-kilometer long smoke plume to the east of the fire. SeaWiFS "saw" the smoke from orbit as it flew by.

The whiteness of the land results from the heavy snow cover deposited by a large storm that swept across the northeastern United States in the third week of February, 2003. Another SeaWiFS image, collected on February 20, 2003, shows the extent of the snow cover. You may click on the left image above to see an MSNBC report on the Staten Island fire. Clicking on the right image above will download a wider view of the 21 February SeaWiFS image (2250 x 1860 pixels, 799 kilobytes).


On Tuesday, August 8, 2000 SeaWiFS collected this remarkable image of the smoke plumes from the fires burning in the western U.S.A. The plume from the major fires along the Idaho/Montana border extends as far east as Minnesota and Iowa.

Monday, 21 August 2000
1:Idaho and Montana
2: Western United States

Smoke over the western U.S.A. on August 8, 2000
Previous Images:
Sunday, 20 August 2000
Wednesday, 16 August 2000
Tuesday, August 15 2000
Monday, August 14 2000 Thursday, August 10 200
Monday, August 7 2000
Sunday, August 6 2000
Wednesday, August 2 2000

The National Interagency Fire Center's website features a map of the most recent fires.


Image of Tropical Storm Ewiniar
Tropical Storm Ewiniar on Thursday, 17 August 2000and the eruption of Mount Oyama on Miyake Jima Island - 20 Aug 2000


SeaWiFS image of the Tropical Storm Allison on June 11, 2001

Remnants Tropical Storm Allison

This SeaWiFS image taken on June 11, 2001 shows the remnants of Tropical Storm Allison, whose deadly floodwaters devastated southeast Texas and southern Louisiana.


West Coast Gale and East Coast Tropical Storm Ana

The first tropical storm of the Atlantic season arrived a bit earlier than usual this year. On the day that the image on the right was collected (20 April 2003), the National Weather Service categorized the storm as a sub-tropical cyclone. On 22 April 2003 they reported that Ana had become a tropical cyclone.

A week later (27 April 2003), the image on the left was collected. At that time the National Weather Service had a gale warning in effect for waters offshore of northern California with eight to sixteen foot seas predicted.


Typhoon Etau
Typhoon Etau was spinning just to the southeast of the Korean Peninsula at mid day on August 8, 2003 when SeaWiFS flew overhead and captured this view. Typhoon Etau To download a larger, broader view, just click on the image at left.

Hurricane Fabian Scours Bermuda sediments suspended around Bermuda by Hurricane Fabian

By Saturday, September 6, 2003, Hurricane Fabian had departed Bermuda but had left his calling card in the form of turbid, turquoise plumes of water around the islands. Click on the picture above for a broader view at full resolution.

The northern eyewall of Hurricane Fabian was over Bermuda when an earlier image was collected around noon (local time) on Friday, September 5, 2003. The hurricane at that time was reported to have maximum sustained winds near 120 mph (195 km/h) with higher gusts.Those winds stirred the ocean around the islands and suspended the sea-floor sediments that color the water in the image above.


Gulf of Mexico on 18 September 2002 Gulf of Mexico on 28 September 2002
18 September 2002< d> 28 September 2002< d>

These two SeaWiFS images were collected ten days apart. The first was collected on September 18, 2002 -- before Tropical Storm/ Hurricane Isidore blew through. Part of the cloud field associated with Isidore is visible in the lower right corner of the left-hand frame.

The second image -- collected on September 28, 2002 -- shows a marked increase in the albedo of the coastal waters, particularly in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This is most likely caused by increased wave action associated with the passing storm and increased rain-generated runoff from the land. Both of these processes entrain more suspended sediments in the water column which in turn can make the water reflect a greater percentage of the incoming solar radiation.

The cloud pattern in the lower right corner of the right-hand image is part of Tropical Storm Lili. Lili -- reclassified as a hurricane on 30 September 2002 -- is currently forecast to follow a path similar to Isidore's a week before.

The above images are also available with coastlines and other borders marked.


Cyclone Zoe Sweeps through Solomon Islands Cyclone Zoe 28 December 2002

While reports of damage are still coming in, Cyclone Zoe ripped through the islands of Tikopia, Fataka and Anuta on Sunday, 29 December with winds exceeding 300 kilometers an hour (186 mph) and massive waves. This SeaWiFS image was taken at noon on Saturday (28 December),just as the eye of Cyclone Zoe was approaching the isolated islands.


This is a view of a von Karman vortex street that formed downwind of Guadalupe Island on June 3, 2002. The counter-rotating vortices are superimposed on a closed cell cloud formation over the North Pacific Ocean just off the west coast of Mexico's Baja Peninsula. < d> vortex street downwind of Guadalupe Island 3 June 2002

On either side of the peninsula, the green color of the water in the Gulf of California reveals the presence of chlorophyll-bearing phytoplankton.

Click on the image at left for a broader view of the region.

< d>

Ross Sea Storm

Antarctic Storms - The Ross Sea

On Wednesday, January 30, 2002, SeaWiFS captured this view of a tightly-formed low pressure cell just north of the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. What look like ridges in the flat ice of the ice shelf are actually clouds and their associated shadows on the white ice below.
Some real ridges can just barely be detected amidst all of the white of clouds and ice as the partially snow free areas of the Transantarctic Mountains which run across the lower right quadrant of the full-sized image.


Amazon River

true color view of Amazon River and plume pseudo color view of Amazon plume

Above are two different views of the Amazon River plume on July 20, 2003. The view on the left shows the ocean in a semi-natural color. Shades of brown near the coast indicate a heavy load of suspended sediments and colored, dissolved organic matter in the water column.

The image on the right shows that the elevated chlorophyll concentrations stimulated by the big river's outflow extend hundreds of miles from the coast.

The river's influence on the cloud field is also evident as the brown water snakes its way through Brazil.


Upwelling driven productivity off California

Winds blowing southward along the west coast of the United States -- because of friction and the effects of Earth's rotation -- cause the surface layer of the ocean to move away from the coast. As the surface water moves offshore, cold, nutrient-rich water upwells from below to replace it. This upwelling fuels the growth of marine phytoplankton which, along with larger seaweeds, in turn nourish the incredible diversity of creatures found along the northern and central California coast.

Sensors such as SeaWiFS can "see" the effects of this upwelling-related productivity because the chlorophyll-bearing phytoplankton reflect predominantly green light back into space as opposed to the water itself which reflects predominantly blue wavelengths back to space.

The ocean areas of the above image (collected on 6 October 2002) are color coded to show chlorophyll concentrations. Land and cloud portions of the image are presented in quasi-natural color.


Shelf Break Upwelling off South Island of New Zealand

New Zealand 8 January 2003

Upwelling along the eastern continental shelf of New Zealand's South Island produced a band of very productive waters as seen in this SeaWiFS-derived chlorophyll-a image taken at noon on Wednesday, January 8, 2003. Over the past week, neashore concentrations of chlorophyll have increased significantly as can be seen in the SeaWiFS image taken on January 15, 2003. The true color image taken on the same day is also available.


SeaWiFS image showing Volvo Ocean Race yacht positions

At 12:30 UT on May 9, 2002, SeaWiFS was flying over western Europe. At the same time down below on the Earth's surface, seven yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race were racing hard to get to the finish line just outside of La Rochelle, France.

The skies were cloudy over the yachts, but just to the north of their tracks the clouds parted to reveal bright aquamarine patches of water that may have been so colored by phytoplankton blooms -- perhaps coccolithophores.

The SeaWiFS Project is helping support the Volvo Ocean Adventure, which is the educational component of the Volvo Ocean Race, by providing content, images and near real-time maps of ocean color for the regions of the world's ocean that the yachts will be sailing in. Each of the yachts is equipped with an instrument package to measure sea surface temperature and ocean color (from above-water radiometers), and these measurements are telemetered back to the race office several times per day. For nine long months, eight yachts will sail through some of the most demanding ocean conditions as they circle the globe with SeaWiFS keeping an eye on them every day.


Eastern U.S. and North Atlantic with yacht positions

SeaWiFS Races Around the World - Yachts Ride the Gulf Stream Towards Europe

The eight yachts participating in the Volvo Ocean Race have left Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay behind in the beginning of Leg 7 and are sailing hard for their next port in La Rochelle, France. The red tracks show how far east the yachts had gotten by 16:00 UT on April 30, 2002. The SeaWiFS image was collected on April 30, 2002 as well. The brownish haze on the eastern side of the image is dust that has blown over the Atlantic from North Africa.

The SeaWiFS Project is helping support the Volvo Ocean Adventure which is the educational component of the Volvo Ocean Race by providing content, images and near real-time maps of ocean color for the regions of the world's ocean that the yachts will be sailing in. Each of the yachts is equipped with an instrument package to measure sea surface temperature and ocean color (from above-water radiometers), and these measurements are telemetered back to the race office several times per day. For nine long months, eight yachts will sail through some of the most demanding ocean conditions as they circle the globe with SeaWiFS keeping an eye on them every day.


SeaWiFS images of Volvo Ocean Race Yachts

SeaWiFS Races Around the World - Yachts leave Cape Town

The eight yachts participating in the Volvo Ocean Race left Cape Town for Sydney on Sunday to begin the second leg of their race around the world. The SeaWiFS Project is helping support the Volvo Ocean Adventure which is the educational component of the Volvo Ocean Race by providing content, images and near real-time maps of ocean color for the regions of the world's ocean that the yachts will be sailing in. Each of the yachts is equipped with an instrument package to measure sea surface temperature and ocean color (from above-water radiometers), and these measurements are telemetered back to the race office several times per day. For nine long months, eight yachts will sail through some of the most demanding ocean conditions as they circle the globe with SeaWiFS keeping an eye on them every day.


SeaWiFS images of Volvo Ocean Race Yachts

SeaWiFS Races Around the World - Yachts Arrive in Baltimore

The eight yachts participating in the Volvo Ocean Race having left Miami on Sunday, April 14 have now completed the sixth leg of the race and arrived safely in Baltimore, Maryland where a week of activities are planned.

The SeaWiFS Project is helping support the Volvo Ocean Adventure which is the educational component of the Volvo Ocean Race by providing content, images and near real-time maps of ocean color for the regions of the world's ocean that the yachts will be sailing in. Each of the yachts is equipped with an instrument package to measure sea surface temperature and ocean color (from above-water radiometers), and these measurements are telemetered back to the race office several times per day. For nine long months, eight yachts will sail through some of the most demanding ocean conditions as they circle the globe with SeaWiFS keeping an eye on them every day.


SeaWiFS images of Volvo Ocean Race Yachts

SeaWiFS Races Around the World - Yachts Round Cape Horn

Seven of the eight yachts participating in the the forth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race have rounded Cape Horn with their destination Rio de Janeiro. The continued pounding of the wind and waves has taken their toll on the yachts and crew with one yacht suffering a complete dismasting forcing that yacht to drop out of leg 4 and make its' way to the port of Punta Arenas, Chile.

The SeaWiFS Project is helping support the Volvo Ocean Adventure which is the educational component of the Volvo Ocean Race by providing content, images and near real-time maps of ocean color for the regions of the world's ocean that the yachts will be sailing in. Each of the yachts is equipped with an instrument package to measure sea surface temperature and ocean color (from above-water radiometers), and these measurements are telemetered back to the race office several times per day. For nine long months, eight yachts will sail through some of the most demanding ocean conditions as they circle the globe with SeaWiFS keeping an eye on them every day.


SeaWiFS image of Gulf Stream

SeaWiFS Races Around the World - Yachts Arrive in Baltimore

The eight yachts participating in the Volvo Ocean Race having left Miami on Sunday, April 14 have now completed the sixth leg of the race and arrived safely in Baltimore, Maryland where a week of activities are planned.While the city celebrates, the crews of the yachts are already planning for the seventh leg of the race across the Atlantic to La Rochelle, France. The first decision that the yachts will have to make will be how to approach the Gulf Stream whose strength, location and direction can change from one day to the next as seen in these two SeaWiFS chlorophyll-a images taken on April 17 and 18, 2002 and in the corresponding MODIS SeaSurface Temperature images.

The SeaWiFS Project is helping support the Volvo Ocean Adventure which is the educational component of the Volvo Ocean Race by providing content, images and near real-time maps of ocean color for the regions of the world's ocean that the yachts will be sailing in. Each of the yachts is equipped with an instrument package to measure sea surface temperature and ocean color (from above-water radiometers), and these measurements are telemetered back to the race office several times per day. For nine long months, eight yachts will sail through some of the most demanding ocean conditions as they circle the globe with SeaWiFS keeping an eye on them every day.


SeaWiFS images of Volvo Ocean Race Yachts

SeaWiFS Races Around the World - First Yachts Reach Cape Town

The first two yachts sailed into Cape Town late Wednesday evening ending their month-long sail through the Atlantic to complete the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. The rest of the fleet should reach Cape Town over the next few days. The SeaWiFS Project is helping support the Volvo Ocean Adventure which is the educational component of the Volvo Ocean Race by providing content, images and near real-time maps of ocean color for the regions of the world's ocean that the yachts will be sailing in. For nine long months, eight yachts will sail through some of the most demanding ocean conditions as they circle the globe with SeaWiFS keeping an eye on them every day.


SeaWiFS images of Volvo Ocean Race Yachts

SeaWiFS Races Around the World - Yachts Reach Rio

Seven of the eight yachts participating in the the fourth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race after rounding Cape Horn have reached their destination Rio de Janeiro. The continued pounding of the wind and waves has taken their toll on the yachts and crew with one yacht suffering a complete dismasting forcing that yacht to drop out of leg 4 and make its way to the port of Punta Arenas, Chile.

The SeaWiFS Project is helping support the Volvo Ocean Adventure which is the educational component of the Volvo Ocean Race by providing content, images and near real-time maps of ocean color for the regions of the world's ocean that the yachts will be sailing in. Each of the yachts is equipped with an instrument package to measure sea surface temperature and ocean color (from above-water radiometers), and these measurements are telemetered back to the race office several times per day. For nine long months, eight yachts will sail through some of the most demanding ocean conditions as they circle the globe with SeaWiFS keeping an eye on them every day.


SeaWiFS image of Pacific Northwest Plankton Bloom

Coastal blooms: Pacific Northwest

Blooms of phytoplankton color the water along the coast near the Strait of Juan de Fuca in this SeaWiFS image collected on Friday, July 23, 2004. This is an area known to be afflicted by harmful algal blooms, and data such as those represented by this SeaWiFS image could be potentially useful to coastal managers seeking a broader view of water conditions in the region. The following site has information and maps of which areas in the region are currently closed toshellfish harvesting.


SeaWiFS image of smoke from Alaskan forest fires
on 21 Aug. 2004

The air in large areas of Alaska was unhealthy to breathe because of thick clouds of smoke from forest fires in the region. The above view -- collected by SeaWiFS on 21 August 2004 -- shows the smoke drifting across the Bering Strait and the international dateline to Russia (where the date was 22 August 2004).

Webcams showing what the smoke looks like at ground level in Fairbanks are available at the University of Alaska and the Bureau of Land Management.


SeaWiFS view of Hurricane Frances on 3 September 2004

Hurricane Frances moved slowly over the Bahamas toward Florida (top center of above image) on September 3, 2004. Click on the above image for a larger, full-reolution view.SeaWiFS images are also available for August 31, September 1, and September 2. You can get a better idea of the size of this storm from this other view of the SeaWiFS data collected on September 3rd. The two views below show where carbonate sediments were mixed into the water when Frances passed over the Bahamas.

Bahamas before and after passage of Frances
SeaWiFS view of Hurricane Ivan on 15 September 2004

The above image of Hurricane Ivan was collected on 15 September 2004 at 1:50 PM CDT. The dark streaks amid the green near the center left side of the above image are the Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas and the Toledo Bend Reservoir along the Texas/Louisiana border.


SeaWiFS view of storms Gaston and Hermine on 30 August 2004

Tropical Depression Gaston (left) left flooding in its wake as it moved from the Carolina's into Virginia on August 30, 2004. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Hermine (right) was headed towards the Cape Cod region.

The above SeaWiFS image was collected at 1:45 EDT on Monday, August 30, 2004.


SeaWiFS view of Typhoon Chaba on 26 August 2004

This true-color SeaWiFS image shows Typhoon Chaba located south of Japan on August 26th, 2004. The storm is expected to move across Japan over the weekend.


Modis image of Gulf of Mexico

'Dead zone' spreads across Gulf of Mexico

Recent reports indicate that the large region of low oxygen water often referred to as the 'Dead Zone' has spread across nearly 5,800 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico again in what appears to be an annual event. Satellite observations of ocean color from both SeaWiFS and MODIS/Aqua taken on July 4, 2004 show highly turbid waters which may include large blooms of phytoplankton extending from the mouth of the Mississippi all the way to the Texas coast.

Dissolved Oxygen map Bottom dissolved oxygen countours measured during the same period as part of NOAA's Hypoxia Watch System for the Gulf of Mexico clearly show the large region of low oxygen water in the same location as the highly turbid water in the satellite images. Most studies indicate that nutrient over-enrichment from anthropogenic sources is one of the major stresses impacting coastal ecosystems.


MODIS Chlorophyll image MODIS SST image
Observing the Gulf of Maine
SeaWiFS True Color image

Technology is rapidly approaching the point of allowing us to routinely monitor vast areas of the oceans and develop a network of regional ocean observing systems leading ultimately to a global system of integrated observations and analyses.One example of such a regional system is the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System.


SeaWiFS image of Hurricane Charley on 13 Aug. 2004

Hurricane Charley, seen in the SeaWiFS image above, made landfall in Florida on August 13th, 2004.

West Florida Shelf, 16 August 2004

During the days that followed, the water over the West Florida Shelf looked much brighter than it had before the storm because the wave action generated by the storm resuspended light-scattering sea-floor sediments.


SeaWiFS image of North African dust over the Mediterranean
on 19 Aug. 2004

Dust from northern Africa often blows across the Mediterranean Sea as was hapenning again on August 19th, 2004 when the above image was collected. Indications are that these sort of dust events are on the increase.


Global Biosphere Image from 6 years of SeaWiFS

New Study Sheds Light on the Role of the Oceans in Regulating the Earth's Carbon Balance

A pair of reports published in Science - July 16, 2004 estimates the amount of carbon dioxide taken up by the oceans and what the potential impact of that uptake might be for life in the oceans including potential impacts on the health and stability of coral reefs.

The role that ocean color measurements can play in this very critical science question was highlighted in another article from the same issue in which it was stated that "improvements in the accuracy of the global carbon pool inventory could help to constrain the future course of atmospheric CO2 level."


SeaWiFS image of Hurricane Charley on 13 Aug. 2004

Hurricane Charley made landfall in Florida on Friday. Just before this SeaWiFS image was collected on Friday, August 13th, 2004 at 1:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm from category 2 to category 4.

SeaWiFS image of Typhoon Rananim on 11 Aug. 2004

Meanwhile, half a world away, Typhoon Rananim came ashore in China on Thursday, August 12. You may view SeaWiFS images of that storm on August 11th and August 13th.


SeaWiFS image of Pacific Northwest Plankton Bloom

Coastal blooms along the Pacific Northwest Coast
23 July 2004

Blooms of phytoplankton color the water along the coast to the north and south of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in this SeaWiFS image collected on Friday, July 23, 2004. Without corroborating data collected at sea level, one cannot say which species of phytoplankton are coloring the water in this image, nor can one say whether or not they are harmful. This is, however, an area known to be afflicted by harmful algal blooms, and data such as those represented by this SeaWiFS image could be potentially useful to coastal managers seeking a broader view of water conditions in the region. The following site has information and maps of which areas in the region are currently closed to shellfish harvesting. http://www4.doh.wa.gov/gis/mogifs/biotoxin.htm


SeaWiFS view of Typhoon Tokage on 19 Oct. 2004

Typhoon Tokage was moving northward along the Ryukyu Islands of Japan on October 19, 2004 when SeaWiFS captured this view of the storm. The typhoon's predicted track is northeastward along the Japanese Island of Honshu over the next few days.


SeaWiFS view of remnants of Subtropical Storm Nicole on 12 Oct. 2004

On October 12, 2004 SeaWiFS captured this view of the remnants of Subtropical Storm Nicole just southeast of the Canadian Maritimes.

In less cloudy, forested regions of Canada and the northeastern United States, the color of autumn can be seen spreading southward. The higher altitudes of the Appalachian Mountains support the southernmost reach of orange.


SeaWiFS view of northern Arabian Sea on 6 October 2004

Monsoon winds over the Arabian Sea affect the distribution of nutrients and sunlight which in turn affect the growth rates of the phytoplankton.

This SeaWiFS image shows chlorophyll levels on October 6, 2004 -- toward the end of the summer monsoon season. Dust can be seen blowing across the deserts of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to the north. An alternate view of the ocean in quasi-natural color is also available.


SeaWiFs True Color Image of Western Europs from Oct 28 1997



Berlin, London, Paris. The Rhine valley. Tidal motions in the channel.


SeaWiFs True Color Image of the Strait of Gibraltar from Dec 26, 1997




SeaWiFS True Color Image of George's Bank on May 23rd 1998


SeaWiFS True Color Image of Norton Sound June 4, 1998


A SeaWiFS view of Israel on April 6, 1998


SeaWiFs True Color Image of fires in Mexico June 4,1998


SeaWiFs image of Oman May 9 1998


SeaWiFS view of the Persian Gulf region on 22 Oct. 2004

A bright tan patch over northern Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq is caused by a dust storm in the above SeaWiFS image collected on October 22, 2004. That dust is partially obscuring a darker region in Iraq formerly referred to as Mesopotamia. This region has undergone extensive environmental degradation over the past several decades which includes the drying out of the marshes in the southern end of the region and extensive harm to the Persian Gulf. There is some cause to hope that future human activities in this part of the world may begin to reverse the trends of recent history with regards to the environment.




Plumes of dust and phytoplankton are visible seaward of the central section of the Baja Peninsula in this SeaWiFS scene collected on November 2, 2004. The view is to the north and west along the southwestern edge of North America.The ocean was processed in two different ways. One shows the dust better, and the other the chlorophyll of the phytoplankton blooms.


Strking blooms and sediments are evident in these SeaWiFs images from June 15, 1998

Norway



Northern Canada




SeaWiFS image of Florida's fires on June 16 1998.






SeaWiFS image of Austrailia April 4 1998. This was taken from the Hobart HRPT station.






SeaWiFS True Color image of a coccolithophore bloom in the Bering Sea, April 25, 1998






SeaWiFS True Color showing dust blowing off of Baja California






SeaWiFS True Color image on June 30, 1998 showing suspended sediments washed down form Mississippi flooding






SeaWiFS True Color image on May 17, 1998 showing dust blowing off of Namibia South Africa.






SeaWiFS True Color image on June 15, 1998 showing a coccolithophore bloom south of Iceland.



Higher resolution view




Time Series of SeaWiFS True Color images From Nov 1 - Dec 28, 1997 showing the evolution of features in the Black Sea.




This SeaWiFS True Color images shows dust blowing off of the coast of Africa on March 6, 1998.



This images shows smoke from fires in Mexico on June 5 1998




SeaWiFs Image of the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef on July 16, 1998.




SeaWiFs Image of a bloom in the Bering Sea on July 20, 1998.




This SeaWiFs pass over the Canary Islands clearly demonstrates island wake effects both in the less dusty air (or less glinty water) in the lee of the islands and in what looks like a Von Karman Vortex Street revealed in the leeward clouds.




This SeaWiFs image on July 30, 1998 shows Tropical Storm Alex.




This SeaWiFs image shows sediment turbidity in James Bay on Aug 3, 1998.




This SeaWiFs image shows the Yangtze River plume on Aug 4, 1998.




This SeaWiFs image shows smoke from fires in Canada on Aug 3, 1998.




This SeaWiFs image shows the striking turbidity in Lake Maracaibo, Dec 24, 1997.




This SeaWiFs image shows the striking Great Barrier Reef off of Austrailia on Aug 8, 1998.




This SeaWiFs image shows a bloom off the coast of Alaska on Aug. 8, 1998




This SeaWiFs image provides a view of Korea and the Yellow Sea on Oct 8 1997.




This SeaWiFs image provides a view of a Dust storm over the Red Sea.




This SeaWiFs image provides a view of a smoke plume from a volcano on the island of Isabela in the Galapagos Islands on Sept. 16, 1998.




This SeaWiFs image provides a view of a bloom in Lake Michigan on Sept. 28, 1998.




In this SeaWiFS image from Oct 1, 1998, a coccolithophore bloom in the Norwegian Sea is quite striking.




In this sequence of SeaWiFS images from Sept. 16-27, 1998, the evolution of a red tide bloom in the Bohai Sea can be traced.




The passage of Georges is evident from this highly turbid water along the Gulf Coast.


Even at the small scale shown above, a pool of dark water (right of image center) is visible around the mouth of the Suwannee River in northern Florida. The river's dark outflow covers roughly 4000 square kilometers of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.The water is dark because of the colored dissolved organic matter it contains. Click on the image for a higher resolution version.

The above SeaWiFS image was collected on November 7, 2004.




Eastern China continues to be plagued by a heavy covering of polluted air as can be seen in this eastward looking SeaWiFS image which was collected earlier today, Nov. 4, 2004.




This MODIS image shows a large eddy (about 200 kilometers in diameter) in the southwest Indian Ocean (south of Madagascar in the Agulhas Return Current region over the Southwest Indian Ridge).People that know much more about these data than I do are working to improving the chlorophyll retrievals including the removal of artifacts such as the stripes that are visible in this image. See /ocrefs.html for an introduction to some of the work that is ongoing.




This SeaWiFS image shows a bloom in the Bohai Sea.




This SeaWiFS image shows dust blowing from Libya over the Mediterranean Sea on Oct 3, 1998.




This SeaWiFS image from Oct 5, 1998 shows dust blowing off the coast of California.




On Oct 7, 1998 A bloom off the coast of Alaska is visible in this SeaWiFS image.




On Oct 14, 1998 Super Typhoon Zeb is seen with winds at 150 mph.




This striking SeaWiFS image of the South Atlantic on Dec 12, 1997 shows interesting and dynamic structure. The Falkland Islands can be seen at the bottom of the image




This striking SeaWiFS image of James Bay on Oct 26, 1998 displays its tremendously turbid water.




This striking SeaWiFS image of Florida is from Oct 29, 1998.




This SeaWiFS image of the eastern Black Sea from June 25, 1998 shows the eutrophication and turbidity of the water.




This SeaWiFS image of the Sea of Azov from Oct. 9, 1998 highlights the turbidity of the water.




This SeaWiFs scene from Dec 21, 1998 shows sediment plumes from the Sepik and Ramu rivers of Papua New Guinea




The Brahmaputra River flowing down from the Himalaya and into the hazy lowlands of Bangladesh to join the Ganges before flowing into the Bay of Bengal is striking in this SeaWiFS image from Dec 29, 1998.




The waters on the west side of New Zealand's South Island are supporting a large, high-albedo bloom (potentially coccolithophores)on Feb. 1, 1999.



Here is the same area, a new bloom on April 12, 1999.




This SeaWiFS image shows strking river plumes in the Bay of Campeche on Jan 12, 1999.




This SeaWiFS image shows a strking dust swirl from the Sahara on Nov 1, 1998.

The Azores are visible at the northwest edge of the dust plume. The Cape Verde Islands can be seen through the dust near the bottom of the image




Numerous eddies made visible by the phytoplankton in the Gulf of California on Jan 20, 1999 The eddies lined up to the north of Isla Carmen look to be on the order of five kilometers in diameter.




May 28, 1998 over the Caspian Sea




Feb 9 1999 over the Galapagos Islands.




Frozen Lake Erie on March 12, 1999




Louisana coast and the dynamic coastal region showing the suspended sediments, organic matter and phytoplankton. March 15, 1999




Sea Ice along the Labrador coast.




This image allows us to view smoke from a raging fire in South Africa on April 1, 1999.




This image shows a red tide bloom off the coast of South Africa on April 11, 1999.




Wind blowing across the Gulf of Tehuantepec causes upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water which fuels phytoplankton blooms. See Article for a more complete explanation.






The Great Lakes are vivid in this SeaWiFS image from April 24, 1999.




Canary Island wakes on April 24, 1999.




Smoke from the Rumsey fire in California Article 1, Article 2 continued to affect the San Francisco Bay area on Oct. 13, 2004 as can be seen in this SeaWiFS image.




Very high chlorophyll concentrations observed off of Tasmania on Oct 24, 2004.

quasi true color true color plus chlorophyll


Recent stormy weather around the Adriatic Sea has churned a lot of sediment into the water along the Italian coastline. This SeaWiFS image was collected on November 17, 2004.




This SeaWiFS pass from June 14, 2000 offers a comparison between the color of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.




This SeaWiFS pass from July 17, 2000 shows a distinctive phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic possibly with the presence of coccolithophorids.




Hurricane Daniel is visible in this SeaWiFS image from July 28, 2000.




Typhoon Jelawat is visible in this SeaWiFS image from Aug 7, 2000.




Typhoon Ewinar is visible in this SeaWiFS image from Aug 12, 2000. The remnants of Typhoon Jelawat can still be seen over eastern China in the upper left corner of the image.




SeaWIFS captured a view of Hurricane Alberto on Aug 12, 2000.




A large sediment plume can be seen flowing down the western edge of Lagoa dos Patos and out to sea through the inlet by Rio Grande in southernmost Brazil. Phytoplankton blooms seen offshore may be partly supported by nutrients contained in the turbid runoff. Also visible are Lagoa Mirim, Lagoa Mangueira, and Laguna Negra (in Uruaguay). This image was captured on Aug. 18, 2000




SeaWiFS saw Typhoon Bilis crossing the Taiwan Strait on Aug 24, 2000.



It's mid spring in the South Atlantic and the ocean is blooming. Ocean currents concentrate the phytoplankton in some areas and spread them out in others. The resulting gradients in chlorophyll concentration across the region make the flow field visible to orbiting sensors such as MODIS which collected this image on November 22, 2004.



This is a SeaWiFS image of Stellwagen Bank from Sept. 30, 2000 showing abundant phytoplankton and sediment plumes.



High turbidity and vigorous mixing is evident in this SeaWiFS view of the Sea of Azov from Oct. 2, 2000.

Here is a zoomed in view:



Here is an image from SeaWiFS showing the waters of the Patagonian Shelf in springtime (Oct 23, 2000)...The water in parts of the Golfo San Jorge looks almost black since most of the incoming solar radiation has been absorbed by the water and the phytoplankton growing there.




SeaWiFS view of Tropical Storm Otto on Dec. 1, 2004 Way out in the middle of the North Atlantic (1400 kilometers east of Bermuda), Tropical Storm Otto thumbs his nose at yesterday's nominal end to the Atlantic hurricane season.

This image was collected by SeaWiFS at 16:45 UTC on December 1, 2004.






This SeaWiFS view of the northeastern U.S.on May 25, 2000 shows several eddies along the north edge of the Gulf Stream. The one centered at 39.3 North and 68.8 West looks like a standard warm-core ring (low-chlorophyll center and clockwise rotation). The eddy farther to the northeast (40.5 North and 66 West) has a much greener center and stands out all the more for its proximity to its clearer neighbor.




An ongoing bloom off the coast of Norway is visible in this SeaWiFS image from June 5, 2000.




South of Tokyo on Miyake Jima, Mount Oyama appears to be erupting in this image from Feb 22, 2001.




SeaWiFS view of Typhoon Namnadol on Dec. 2, 2004

Typhoon Nanmadol is exacerbating flooding and landslides in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Winnie which came through a few days earlier. There is some speculation that illegal logging is partly to blame for the mudslides.




SeaWiFS viewed a large, dense bloom of phytoplankton in the southern Gulf of California on April 16, 2001.




Plumes of river outflow are visible in this SeaWiFS image of central Chile from June 17, 2001. The sediment- laden plumes extend out about 70 kilometers into the Pacific Ocean boosting phytoplankton production as they go.

The snow-covered Andes are visible along the right side of the image. The capital city of Santiago is the grayish splotch west of the Andes at around 33.5 degrees south.




SeaWiFS view of plankton bloom in Ross Sea on 6 Dec. 2004

The Ross Sea is one of the most productive regions of the world's oceans, and this enhanced natural color image shows very green water just to the north of the Ross Ice Shelf, indicating high concentrations of chlorophyll-bearing phytoplankton.

This image was collected by SeaWiFS at 14:12 UTC on December 6, 2004.




SeaWiFS captured a clear view of blooms around South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic on March 19, 1999.




This SeaWiFS image of Central America on March 28, 2000 shows what looks like smoke coming from Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. The smoke can bee seen drifting over the Campeche Bank and over Belize's barrier reef.




The waters around the Falkland Islands on Dec 12, 1999 show striking features.




SeaWiFS saw a well-defined eddy in the Drake Passage in March of 1998. The difference in surface albedo between the eddy and the surrounding waters is quite large.




South America's Rio de la Plata looked thick enough to plow in this image from May 2000.




This is a SeaWiFS view of Hurricane Humberto over the western North Atlantic. Bermuda is visible in the full-resolution image as an oval aquamarine patch south by southeast of the storm.




Amazing springtime water colors off the coast of Argentina are visible in this SeaWiFS image collected on November 22, 2001. . In some areas the water goes from deep blue to bright aquamarine to rich green and back to deep blue within the space of a few kilometers. The city of Buenos Aires, Argentina is visible as a gray splotch on the western shore of the light brown Rio de la Plata near the top of the image. The Falkland Islands peek through the clouds near the bottom of the image.



Here is a closer view:




Snow-capped Mount Etna was sending a faint, thin emanation eastward on Feb 28, 2002.




The Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Portugal and Spain is developing a bright aquamarine color which is most likely caused by phytoplankton blooms. Smaller bright patches are also visible farther north in the outer Bay of Biscay (just peeking from beneath the cloud cover). This SeaWiFS image is from April 23, 2002.




This combined true-color/chlorophyll SeaWiFS image (collected on April 5, 2002) shows several eddies spinning off the western coast of Australia.




Bright blooms continue to develop in the Black Sea. To the southwest dust from Africa hangs over the Mediterranean. This image is from May, 4 2002




The waters in the Gulf of Alaska show dramatic structure in the surface constituents on May 2, 2002.




A combination of recent flooding in the central United States and agricultural runoff from farms in the regions drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries may be causes of the large plume seen extending into the Gulf of Mexico in this SeaWiFS scene collected on December 13, 2004. One image shows the water in quasi-natural color, and the other one shows chlorophyll concentration.




The final downlink of SeaWiFS data to NASA occurred at 12:52 AM (EST) on December 24, 2004. The sensor remains in good health, but NASA's contract with ORBIMAGE, the provider of the data, has ended.

The above image is the last complete global image downlinked to NASA. Click on it to view the individual swaths in more detail. Among the features of interest during this final 24 hour period are: phytoplankton blooms east of Argentina, dust and smoke from northern and central Africa, air pollution over the Bay of Bengal, and recent snowfall in the United States.






Here is another SeaWiFS view of the phytoplankton blooms in the Malvinas current region. The enhanced natural color image shows actual differences in water color while the pseudocolor image shows chlorophyll concentration.


On the evening of December 19, 2004 snow was falling in parts of the Mid-Atlantic States and New England.The white dusting was visible to SeaWiFS the following day along with cloud patterns arranged by the stiff, cold winds that blew from the north dropping temperatures below freezing as far south as Florida.






This SeaWiFS image shows Hurricane Lili and Tropical Storm Kyle.


This set of SeaWIFS images from Oct 4, 2002 displays the productivity in the Arabian Sea.

The top image is true color and the bottom image is chlorophyll concentration.



Winds blowing southward along the west coast of the United States -- because of friction and the effects of Earth's rotation -- cause the surface layer of the ocean to move away from the coast. As the surface water moves offshore, cold, nutrient-rich water upwells from below to replace it. This upwelling fuels the growth of marine phytoplankton which, along with larger seaweeds, in turn nourish the incredible diversity of creatures found along the northern and central California coast.

Sensors such as SeaWiFS can "see" the effects of this upwelling-related productivity because the chlorophyll-bearing phytoplankton reflect predominantly green light back into space as opposed to the water itself which reflects predominantly blue wavelengths back to space.

The ocean areas of this image (collected on 6 October 2002) are color coded to show chlorophyll concentrations. Land and cloud portions of the image are presented in quasi-natural color.




On November 26, 2002, SeaWiFS captured this relatively clear view of southern Africa and the seas around it. Phytoplankton distributions that are barely discernible in the quasi-true-color image become much clearer in the image of computed chlorophyll concentrations. In the second image, the lower chlorophyll concentrations associated with the Agulhas Current ar visible along the southeastern coast of the continent. When this current meets the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, it gets retroflexed back towards the east and forms the meanders and eddies visible in the lower right quadrant of the image. Higher chlorophyll concentrations along the west coast of Africa result from upwelling associated with the Benguela Current which flows northward along the western edge of the continent.


The SeaWiFS image of the waters around southeastern Australia on Jan 6, 2003 shows a complex eddy field highlighted by the chlorophyll-bearing phytoplankton that are carried along by the swirling currents. On the land one can see the long, ruler-straight boundaries of national parks such as the Murray-Sunset National Park and the Wyperfeld National Park in northwestern Victoria. Vegetation inside the parks makes these areas appear darker than the surrounding regions.


Probably the most dominant oceanographic feature of the western North Atlantic Ocean is the Gulf Stream. The northern edge of that current is clearly visible in the chlorophyll field measured by SeaWiFS today. As the Gulf Stream flows eastward it forms meanders that occasionally pinch off to form clockwise-rotating warm-core rings to the north and counterclockwise- rotating cold-core rings to the south. Cold-core rings generally have higher chlorophyll concentrations (and lower surface temperatures) than the surrounding water, and a few of them can be descried in this image. Cold core rings tend to form in the east and then gradually migrate towards the southwest. Some have been reported to remain recognizable for up to two years.


Fires on Sakhalin Island and across the Tatar Strait on the Russian mainland were sending thick clouds of multicolored smoke into the air on July 27, 2003 as can be seen in this SeaWiFS image.


Thick smoke from fires in Portugal could be seen blowing northward in this SeaWiFS image of the region from Aug. 3, 2003.


Sunny skies over the Pacific Northwest gave SeaWiFS this clear view of that mountainous region and of the productive waters around Vancouver Island and the west coast of Washington on Saturday, September 27, 2003.


This is SeaWiFS view of Typhoon Ketsana to the south of western Japan and east of the northern Philippines on Oct 24, 2003. Also visible in this image is a vortex street on the leeward side of Cheju Island off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula.


SeaWiFS shows that large quantities of smoke from the southern California fires continued to flow over the Pacific Ocean on Oct 27, 2003.


Between Yemen and Somalia the waters of the Gulf of Aden swirl in topographically squared off eddies which, in this SeaWiFS image, are made visible by the chlorophyll-bearing phytoplankton that they carry. This image was collected on November 1, 2003.


Late spring is coming to New Zealand. These two SeaWiFS views collected on December 1, 2003 show the distribution of chlorophyll-bearing phytoplankton in the surrounding ocean. The first view is a quasi-natural color view. The second view replaces the oceans with a pseudo-color representation of chlorophyll concentration which shows much more detail in the ocean.


Blooms of phytoplankton color the water along the coast to the north and south of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in this SeaWiFS image collected on Friday, July 23, 2004. Without corroborating data collected at sea level, one cannot say which species of phytoplankton are coloring the water in this image, nor can one say whether or not they are harmful.


This image shows the eruption of Montserrat on 8, 1998.


A bloom in Lake Michigan is evident in this SeaWiFS image from Sept. 23, 1998. The "whiting" in the image is probably a calcite whiting that typically occurs as a result of autogenic precipitation of calcite as a result of water warming and pH rise caused by phytoplankton uptake of carbon dioxide.


This SeaWiFS image from Jan 30, 2000 shows the productive waters over George's Bank and Nantucket Shoals, the sediment muddied waters in the upper Bay of Fundy, sea ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the ice covered Lake Manicouagan formed around a former impact crater.


A toxic bloom of the cyanobacteria, Nodularia spumigena has been reported in the Baltic Sea On July 24, 2003, SeaWiFS captured this view of the blooming Baltic.





The subtropical front is visible in this MODIS scene both in the temperature and the chlorophyll field as it stretches eastward from New Zealand along the Chatham Rise. Also visible in the data are regions of upwelling in and south of Cook Strait and around the three capes: Reinga, East (on the North Island), and Farewell (on the South Island). Two warm spots in the sea surface temperature field -- one on either side of the North Island -- show no clear correlation with the chlorophyll signal.

These data were collected on January 13, 2005 by MODIS aboard the Aqua satellite.






This image shows the first 24-hours of data from Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) taken on Sept. 16, 1997. The red colors show high concentrations of chlorophyll in the water, the yellows/greens indicate intermediate concentrations of chlorophyll and the blues/purples show low concentrations of chlorophyll. Where there are black swaths this indicates there is no data due to gaps between the orbits. SeaWiFS observes the Earth from a noontime sun-synchronous orbit which means that the sensor is always viewing the Earth around local noon at an altitude of 440 miles (705 kilometers). This orbit provides data at the maximum solar illumination most desirable for detecting concentrations of microscopic green plants, called phytoplankton, which live just beneath the ocean surface. These green plants absorb sunlight during photosynthesis, the most basic and essential chemical process necessary for live on Earth. The gaps between the swaths of data are filled the following day, thus providing complete global coverage every two days. Nearly complete cloud-free coverage is achieved over the course of about one week as cloud patterns shift. SeaWiFS data will allow routine assessment of global vegetation patterns, both land and ocean, needed to understand the world's ecosystems and global change. The SeaWiFS instrument will observe the world's oceans from space to measure "ocean color." SeaWiFS is an essential component of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, an ongoing effort to study how the global environment is changing. Using the unique perspective available from space, NASA will observe, monitor and assess large-scale environmental processes, such as the oceans' productivity, focusing on climate change.

The Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean lie in the path of the Antarctic circumpolar current. Nutrients -- either from the islands themselves or from deeper water mixed to the surface by turbulence around the Kerguelen Plateau -- support more vigorous phytoplankton growth in the wake of the islands. This shows up in the image above as higher chlorophyll concentration. Further discussion of the region is available.

Larger images showing chlorophyll and sea surface temperature over a wider area are also available. These data were collected on January 27, 2005 by MODIS aboard the Aqua satellite.




This clear view of chlorophyll concentrations in the northeastern Arabian Sea was collected by MODIS on the Aqua satellite on February 22, 2005.

You can click on the image above to get a larger version, or you can download an alternate color scheme.


In this sea surface temperature image, the Agulhas Current shows up as a tongue of warm water flowing southwest from the Indian toward the Southern Ocean. The northward flowing Benguela Current appears as a band of lower temperature along the west coast of South Africa.

A corresponding chlorophyll image shows that the nutrient-poor, subtropical water in the Agulhas Current supports relatively meager populations of phytoplankton while the coastal upwelling associated with the Benguela Current supports one of the most productive phytoplankton assemblages in the world.




This depiction of chlorophyll concentrations in the Gulf of California was derived from data collected on March 8, 2005 by MODIS aboard Aqua.


On March 16, 2005, Tropical Storm Willy tracked southwestward through the eastern Indian Ocean over several days. As it passed it mixed cooler water and nutrients to the surface.

Chlorophyll concentrations calculated from MODIS Aqua also increased along the storm's track.

SST Images also show the storm's passage.



Image of The Global Biosphere Rectangular Projection (September 97 - August 2000) Image of The Global Biosphere Mollweide Projection (September 97 - April 2000) The Global Biosphere (September 97 - August 2000)
Chlorophyll (Rectangular Projection)
Biosphere - Chlorophyll and SeaWiFS-derived NDVI (Mollweide Projection)
(4096 x 2048 jpg) [1.2 Mbytes]


Image of The Global Biosphere (Sep 97 - Dec 01) Image of The Global Biosphere (Dec 97 - Mar 02) Northern Hemisphere Fall and Winter

Sep 21, 1997 - Dec 20, 2001 and Dec 21, 1997 - Mar 20, 2002
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Image of The Global Biosphere (Mar 98 - Jun 02)Image of The Global Biosphere (Jun 98 - Sep 01) Northern Hemisphere Spring and Summer

Mar 21, 1998 - June 20, 2001 and Jun 21, 1998 - Sep 20, 2001
(4096 x 2048 jpg)


Image of The Global Biosphere (PAcific Projection) Image of The Global Biosphere (PAcific Projection)The Global Biosphere (September 97 - August 98)
Pacific Ocean
Orthographic Projection
(1024 x 1024 jpg) approximately 200 kbytes


Image of The Global Biosphere (Atlantic Projection) Image of The Global Biosphere (Atlantic Projection)The Global Biosphere (September 97 - August 98)
Atlantic Ocean
Orthographic Projection
(1024 x 1024 jpg) approximately 200 kbytes






Image of The Global Biosphere (Polar Projection) Image of The Global Biosphere (Polar Projection) Image of The Global Biosphere (Polar Projection) The Global Biosphere (September 97- August 98)
Indian Ocean and Polar Projections
Orthographic Projection
(1024 x 1024 jpg) approximately 200 kbytes




Image of The East Coast of the United States by SeaWiFS on 12 April 1998 Image of The East Coast of the United States by SeaWiFS on 12 April 1998 - closeup view Eastern North America - low resolution
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Eastern North America - high resolution
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Mid-Atlantic Region - high resolution
(850 x 937 jpg) [197 kbytes]

True Color - 12 April 1998 - Image collected at NASA/GSFC Satellite Receiving Station




These Aqua MODIS images show a phytoplankton bloom along a weak temperature front in the Gulf of Alaska on April 11, 2005. (Alternate SST and chlorophyll color schemes are also available.)

Blooms of phytoplankton often occur in these latitudes at this time of year when the day length is increasing and the solar zenith angle is decreasing resulting in more light for photosynthesis and for the heating of surface waters. Warmer surface water is more resistant to mixing with deeper, colder water because it is less dense than the colder water, so phytoplankton can remain closer to the well lit surface longer where they can produce the complex hydrocarbons that the rest of the food web depends upon. Eventually, if the surface waters are not replenished with the nutrients that the phytoplankton consume, such blooms wane.

The Gulf of Alaska is probably still fairly replete with nutrients mixed up by recent storms in the area. See, for example, the QuikSCAT data from two days before which shows high winds over the Gulf (click on the Gulf of Alaska when you visit the above hyperlink).

SST chlorophyll
SST
SST

The warm heart of the Gulf Stream is readily apparent in the top sea surface temperature image. As the current flows toward the northeast it begins to meander and pinch off eddies that transport warm water northward and cold water southward. The current also divides the local ocean into a low-biomass region to the south and a higher-biomass region to the north. This is evident in the bottom chlorophyll image.

The data were collected by MODIS aboard Aqua on April 18, 2005. Alternate SST and chlorophyll color scales are also available as well as true color imagery of the region.



The southward flowing Brazil and northward flowing Malvinas currents meet off the coast of Argentina. These MODIS images were produced from data collected on May 2, 2005. The interacting currents support enhanced biological productivity -- particularly during the austral spring and summer, but also now during the fall.

Click on either image to get the corresponding larger view, or use the following hyperlinks to view the SST and chlorophyll images with a different color scale.

SST SST
During the past week, dust from Asia has been riding the wind across the Pacific Ocean towards North America.The following sequence of SeaWiFS images shows the dust's progress through May 4, 2005.




A volcano erupted on the island of Fernandina in the Galapagos islands on Friday, May 13.
This SeaWiFS image, clearly showing the smoke plume, was captured thirty minutes after the eruption.

Fernandina is the most active volcano in the Galapagos, and has had between 20 and 22 eruptions since 1813. The last event was seven years ago.



The waters of the Barents Sea have been showing increasing chlorophyll concentrations over the past few weeks according to our standard global satellite chlorophyll algorithm. This MODIS Aqua Chlorophyll image from May 25, 2005 shows concentrations that are higher than we normally accommodate when we scale our data to produce browse images.

Tropical Storm Arlene is the first named storm of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. This MODIS image of the storm was collected on June 9, 2005. That is South America at the bottom of the image and the southeastern United States at the top.


Eddies of different sizes are made visible by chlorophyll-bearing phytoplankton in the Mozambique Channel in this MODIS image collected on June 10, 2005.


There are more waves in the ocean than the ones you can see from a beach or a ship. The above tropical instability waves along the equator in the Pacific Ocean were "seen" by MODIS on June 20, 2005 as an undulating region of elevated chlorophyll concentration.

A coregistered pair of large chlorophyll and sea surface temperature images is also available for these data.


MODIS Aqua had a good view of an eddy in the Norwegian Sea on July 1, 2005


On July 21, 2005 SeaWiFS captured this view of a dust cloud that is drifting over the Atlantic Ocean on its way from northern Africa to the Americas. Some evidence suggests that the frequency of such dust events has increased over the past century and that it has the potential to continue increasing as the climate changes.


This MODIS image from July 8, 2005 over the Baltic shows a bloom - potentially Nodularia.

These MODIS (Aqua) images collected on 4 August 2005 show a couple of large Gulf Stream eddies. The eddy to the north of the warm Gulf Stream is an anticyclonic, warm core ring containing water that has lower chlorophyll concentrations and higher surface temperatures than the surrounding waters. The eddy to the south of the Gulf Stream is a cyclonic, cold core ring containing water that has higher chlorophyll concentrations and lower surface temperatures than the surrounding waters. The finger of elevated chlorophyll concentrations in the upper left quadrant of that image marks the location of the shallow, productive Georges Bank.

Click on either image above to get a broader view of the region. The same images are available in different color scales from these links: SST2, SST3, CHL2, CHL3.

SST chlorophyll

This SST image was collected by MODIS Aqua on August 2, 2005. It shows a warm core eddy over the western edge of the Argentine Basin.



Whimsically featured in the recent animated movie, "Finding Nemo", the East Australian Current brings warm water from the Coral Sea southward along the east coast of Australia. The warm tongue of water in the above left image is a surface manifestation of that current. The right image shows that the current also has lower chlorophyll concentrations than the surrounding waters.

These MODIS images were collected on August 17, 2005. Click on either one to get a broader view of the region. The same images are available in different color scales from these links: SST2, SST3, CHL2, CHL3.

SST chlorophyll

An updated animation of the SeaWiFS biosphere data set encompassing eight years worth of ocean color and land vegetation observations is now available. Click on the above reduced subset of that animation to learn more.


This MODIS view of the eastern North Atlantic on Sept. 13, 2005, shows a classic upwelling signature with colder nutrient-rich upwelled water near the Portuguese coast supporting higher chlorophyll concentrations near the coast.




SeaWiFS viewed another large dust transport event originating in North Africa and moving westward across the North Atlantic Ocean in March 2006.


click for medium-sized image
In the afternoon of August 29, 2006, the outer bands of Tropical Storm Ernesto were moving northward across southern Florida. MODIS aboard the Aqua satellite collected the data used to create this image at 2:45 PM EDT. Click on the above image for a medium-sized version ( full resolution (75.5 MB) version).


click for full-sized image
The Day Fire to the northwest of Los Angeles was sending a large plume of smoke over the Pacific Ocean when MODIS aboard the Aqua satellite flew up from the south and captured this view on September 17, 2006.


click for full-sized image
A study connecting July 2004 ozone levels in Houston to fires in Alaska and Canada has just been published. The above image is a composite of SeaWiFS data collected on July 19, 2004 -- the day before the measured Houston ozone increase. The path of the smoke southward across the U.S. Midwest and eastward beyond Newfoundland is clearly visible. Aerosols such as these must be properly modeled before ocean color parameters can be computed from satellite data.


click for full-sized image
Interactions between currents and topography around New Zealand produce many eddies in the region. On September 26, 2006 these eddies were highlighted by the varying amounts of chlorophyll bearing phytoplankton they entrained. The data from which the above image was made were collected by MODIS aboard the Aqua satellite.


click for full-sized image
This clear view of Northern Alaska and northwestern Canada was collected by MODIS aboard the Aqua satellite on 4 September 2006. Alaska's North Slope, Brooks Range, and Yukon River valley are clearly visible in this southward looking view. The Mackenzie River and its large delta are also prominent on the left (eastern) side of the image.


click for full-sized image
This southward looking view across northeastern China and the Bohai Sea was collected on September 29, 2006. The Bohai Sea is located in a heavily populated area and is therefore heavily used by shipping, fishing, oil and gas, and other industries. The bright tan area along the western (right) side is caused by the heavy suspended sediment load delivered to the sea by the Huang He (Yellow) River.

Clicking on the above image will download a large (54 megabyte) version of the image that covers a broader area at higher resolution.


click for full-sized image
The Amazon -- largest of all of Earth's rivers -- has an enormous impact on the biota of the equatorial Atlantic Ocean. Here, the elevated chlorophyll concentrations associated with the river's plume are carried northwestward by the North Brazil Current and then retroflected back to the east by the North Equatorial Counter Current.

Click on the above animation to get a larger version showing chlorophyll concentrations, or get the natural color version of the image in which the plume is just visible as a band of darker water meandering eastward.


click for larger version of Borneo smoke image
In the above October 17, 2006 MODIS image much of the island of Borneo is hidden by smoke from agricultural and peat fires -- many of them illegally set. The smoke is impacting air travel and human health in the region.

Click on the above image to see a larger version or get the full resolution (7200 x 7280 pixels, 62.4 megabytes) version.


click for larger version of SeaWiFS moon shadow image
SeaWiFS pixels are dimmed by moon shadow about twice a year on average. The above image shows the dark area of the shadow during the annular solar eclipse of September 22, 2006. The swath to the east of the darkened one is not similarly affected because those pixels were collected about 99 minutes earlier, before the moon shadow had arrived. See this table for other examples of SeaWiFS swaths affected by solar eclipses.


click for larger version of MODIS image of South Atlantic
Some of the authors of a recent paper describing the timing of coccolithophore blooms in the South Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Argentina are once again at sea in this area endeavoring to improve our understanding of the phytoplankton communities that add so much color to these waters.

Click on the above 26 October 2006 MODIS image for a larger version or click here for the full-sized (98.6 megabyte) image.


click for larger version of MODIS image of southeast Indian Ocean
This chlorophyll image of the southeast Indian Ocean was collected on November 6, 2006 by MODIS on the Aqua satellite. The elevated chlorophyll concentrations straddle the region of the westward flowing South Equatorial Current which gets much of its water from the Pacific Ocean via the seas of Indonesia. Numerous small eddies appear in the lee of the Cocos Islands -- the same islands that prompted Darwin to develop his theory of atoll formation.

Click on the above image for a larger view with a color scale.


click for larger version of MODIS image of eastern China
Rivers such as the Yellow and the Yangtze bring large quantities of suspended sediment to the Yellow and East China seas. Because of the relatively shallow depth of the water, storm-generated waves also resuspend sediments that had previously settled to the sea floor. The resulting turbidity is clearly visible from orbit in this image collected on November 7, 2006.

Click on the above image for a larger view or here for the full resolution (126 megabytes; 8244 x 10400 pixels) version.


click for access to other eruption-related images
A submarine volcano named Home Reef in the South Pacific nation of Tonga erupted in August 2006. In addition to the airborne ash that can be best seen in the above image, the volcano also ejected a considerable amount of ash that remained or landed in the water and was subsequently distributed by the local current field. In this MODIS image, the water-borne ash looks either grayish-tan (floating pumice) or yellowish-green to aquamarine (ash suspended in the water column). The yacht, Maiken, was in the area at the time and took photos of the pumice raft from sea level.

Click on the above image for access to other images of the event.


click for access to individual images in time series
During the month of December 2006, large forest fires in drought-stricken southeastern Australia produced vast clouds of smoke. Southern hemisphere winds then carried the smoke along several paths to Antarctica and South America. The SeaWiFS animation above shows the locations of the smoke clouds over several days. (Click on the animation to gain access to larger versions of the individual images.)



The passive remote sensing of ocean color from space reqires an orbit that takes the sensor over sufficiently sunny parts of the Earth. Sometimes, however, the Sun-Earth-satellite geometry results in too much sunlight reaching the radiometer from the wrong source. Such is the case in the broad area to the east (right) of Sri Lanka in the Terra-MODIS image above, where sunlight mirrored by the sea surface completely swamps any light reflected from beneath the surface. Most of the water west of the island and along the Indian coast shows its color because MODIS was looking away from the Sun when it collected those pixels. Some blue patches are also visible just east of the brightest portion of the sun glint. In those areas, winds are roughing up the water's surface enough to break the mirror effect.

Click on the above image for a larger version or download a still larger (46 megabytes, 12000x3400 pixels) and broader version that includes the Maldives along the left. This image was collected on March 22, 2007.



These are a few MODIS images of icy places on our planet in recognition of the International Polar Year which is just getting under way. See if you can guess the regions shown in each scene. Click on the above image for a larger version with labels.



Heavy summer and early autumn rains in northern Argentina had, by April 4, 2007, flushed down the Paraná River into the Rio de la Plata and made that estuary even more turbid than usual with their suspended load of sediments and CDOM. Click on the above image for a higher resolution view of the South American Atlantic coastline or here for an even higher resolution view of the region collected on 12 April 2007.


Madagascar Plumes

November 2005 - May 2006
chlorophyll color scale
For the past ten years in the late summer/early fall, SeaWiFS has observed a large, eastward-propagating bloom that appears to originate just south of Madagascar and then penetrate into the oligotrophic heart of the southern Indian Ocean gyre. The bloom appears stronger about every other year. The above animation shows the progression of the bloom in early 2006. Click on the above image to see an animation (97 Mbyte) of the bloom development over the years. (Smaller [58 Mbyte] and still smaller [28 Mbyte] versions of the animation are also available as is an FTP directory containing the animation files.) Other oceans show similar blooms, but this is one of the more eye-catching ones. Does anyone have a good explanation for this? We have set up a bulletin board in our ocean color forum in case anyone would like to comment on this phenomenon.


North African Dust

Satellite remote sensing has taught us that dust is a regular export commodity from North Africa. Fertilization of phytoplankton and of rain forests, spread of pathogens, and the quelling of nascent tropical storms have all been linked to events such as the one pictured above. Both MODIS sensors viewed the event on May 9, 2007, and the above animation shows shows how the dust distribution changed between the two satellite overpasses. The dust moves 120 kilometers or so in places during the three hour interval.

Medium (4 Mbyte) and large (47 Mbyte) Terra MODIS images and medium (4 Mbyte) and large (50 Mbyte) Aqua MODIS images are available.


Canary Island Wakes

The Canary Islands with elevations as high as 3800 meters lie directly in the path of the northeast trade winds off the northwest coast of Africa. In the image above some of the islands appear to have whitish tails. These tails are most likely caused by sunlight reflecting off of the relatively smooth waters in the lee of the five westernmost islands. At the time of this satellite overpass, the sun was to the southwest of the islands, so the smooth waters acted like a mirror and directly reflected the Sun's rays into the MODIS detectors. Wind flowing between the islands roughed up the sea surface enough to break the mirror and make the bluer light from beneath the surface visible. Note that the two islands well east of the satellite (Fuerteventura and Lanzarote) have no sun glint in their wakes (see the larger images referenced below).

The data that went into this image were collected on 31 May 2007 by MODIS aboard the Aqua satellite. Large (7.9 megabyte) and still larger (51.6 megabytes) versions of the scene are available.


North Pacific Bloom

A break in the clouds over the central North Pacific revealed a large patch of bright aquamarine water on June 6, 2007. Other ocean patches of a similar color have been identified as coccolithophore blooms in the past. The location and timing of this bloom is what one might expect for such phytoplankton, but surface water samples would be needed to confirm the identification. Perhaps someone in our readership knows of a cruise in the area. (Click on the above image for a larger view of the region with one-degree grid lines superimposed.)


Benguela Upwelling System

Prevailing southeasterly winds along the coast of South Africa, Namibia, and southern Angola drive Ekman upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water thereby making the Benguela Current region one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. The above image pair, collected on 17 June 2007, shows newly upwelled cold water along the coast and the elevated phytoplankton biomass that results when nutrient-rich water flows up into the sunlight. Click on the images above for larger versions or download a true color version that includes two or three small aquamarine patches along the coast that might result from another phenomenon that results from the high productivity.

Benguela SST Benguela chlorophyll

Greenland and Iceland

The North Atlantic spring bloom reaches the waters around contrarily-named Greenland and Iceland in the early summer and colors them the various shades of green and blue that result from differences in phytoplankton concentration and species composition. This image, collected on 23 June 2007, also shows tan streamers of dust blowing southward across the southern Icelandic coastline.


The Bering Strait

Cloudless skies over the Bering Strait and Chukchi Sea on July 5, 2007 (July 6 in Russia) revealed waters green with phytoplankton. Despite this apparent abundance at the base of the marine food web, recent reports, such as those of underweight gray whales that depend on this region for food, raise warning flags that the ecosystem might be changing too fast for some of its constituents to keep up. Another related sign of change can be found in the retreating Arctic sea ice and increased coastal erosion along Alaska's northern coast. Some of the sea ice can be seen to extend almost to the coast east and west of the mostly ice covered Teshekpuk Lake. Click on the above image for a larger view or here for the full resolution view.


Eddies in the Mozambique Channel

A 25 July 2007 true color view of the Mozambique Channel and southwest Indian Ocean shows few features of note. When the same MODIS scene is processed to retrieve ocean chlorophyll concentrations, however, the patchiness of the region is revealed, and numerous interconnected small eddies -- many of which appear to possess characteristics attributed to spiral eddies -- appear.

Click on the above image for a larger view of the region.


Phytoplankton Bloom in the Barents Sea

A break in the clouds over the Barents Sea on August 1, 2007 revealed a large, dense phytoplankton bloom to the orbiting MODIS aboard the Terra satellite. The bright aquamarine hues suggest that this is likely a coccolithophore bloom. The visible portion of this bloom covers about 150,000 square kilometers (57,000 square miles) or roughly the area of Wisconsin.

Click on the above image for a larger view of the region.


Hurricane Dean Turbidity

Hurricane Dean passed just south of Jamaica on Sunday evening, August 19, 2007. The following day, Aqua-MODIS saw increased turbidity along the southern coast of the Dominican Republic and around Pedro Bank (southwest of Jamaica) through a gap in the clouds on the back side of the storm. A Terra-MODIS image from August 21, 2007 depicts (despite high levels of ocean-color-obscuring sun glint on the water) high concentrations of suspended carbonate sediments along the south side of Jamaica and the north side of the Pedro Bank. The above animation moves back and forth between the August 21 image and one collected on February 10, 2007 -- when the sun glint was reduced and the water clear enough to see the underwater bank itself without any sediment plumes. Turbidity events like this one turn out to be a common occurence whenever heavy wind and wave action stir shallow ocean waters that overlie unconsolidated sea floor sediments.


Greenland Melt Water

During the summer, portions of Greenland's coastal regions actually do become green. The above animation shows this as it alternates between two MODIS views of the west coast just north of the Arctic Circle that were collected on 25 February 2007 and 27 August 2007.

Another conspicuous feature of the August image is the pockmarked, gray band that extends north/south through the right half of the image. The gray is water-saturated snow and ice, and the pockmarks are melt ponds. Much of this melt water makes its way via crevasses and moulins toward the coast -- picking up along the way the rock flour that brightens the fjords on the left side of the image. The melt water is also likely accelerating the flow of the Greenland ice sheet toward the sea -- a finding that matters to the inhabitants of Earth.


Mackenzie River Outflow

The Mackenzie River was bringing a heavy load of suspended sediment to the Beaufort Sea on August 28, 2007 (see the inset above). The shrinking Arctic ice pack is visible in the lower left corner of this southward looking view.

Click on the above image for a much larger view (7500 x 8000 pixels, 86 megabytes).


SeaWiFS First Light Anniversary

On September 4, 1997, just a little over a month since launch, SeaWiFS collected its first Earth imagery as it flew over eastern North America. Ten years and one hour later, the little radiometer that could once again imaged the western North Atlantic. Both images show darker, chlorophyll-rich water north of the Gulf Stream; both show Saharan dust in the southeast corner; both show water brightened by coccoliths or sediment in the vicinity of the Grand Banks. The 2007 image also depicts a wide swath of polluted air streaming northeastward from the U.S. coast.

In just a few more days SeaWiFS will observe another anniversary -- ten years of global ocean color measurements. Stay tuned.

Click on the images above to see larger versions.

4 September 1997 4 September 1997 4 September 2007 4 September 2007

September 12, 2001: Revisited

Six years ago on September 12, 2001, SeaWiFS captured the above image of Hurricane Erin whirling well offshore of the U.S./Canadian east coast which was bathed in sunshine. No casualties or damages were reported from the hurricane in stark contrast to the human-wrought events of the day before.

Click on the image above to see a larger version.



On September 20, 1997 SeaWiFS collected its first complete day's worth of ocean color data. Ten years later it continues to collect the data that have greatly enhanced our knowledge of the ecology of Earth's oceans. Read more about how this small sensor -- for a surprisingly modest tax payer investment -- has revolutionized our understanding of Earth's biosphere.



During the 1997-1998 El Niño, drought conditions in Indonesia and Malaysia allowed agricultural fires to get out of control and send huge clouds of smoke across the region. Click on the above image for access to a time series of SeaWiFS imagery of the smoke during the fall of 1997.


Asian Dust Traverses North Pacific

On 12 April 2001 (eastern Pacific) and 13 April 2001 (western Pacific), SeaWiFS captured this view of a large dust cloud on its way from Asia across the North Pacific Ocean to North America.

Click on the image above to see a larger version.


Chesapeake Bay Monitoring

Seventeen million people currently live in the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay -- one of the largest and most productive estuaries in North America. That many people are putting enormous pressures on the Bay, and its water quality is suffering. As population is predicted to grow to almost twenty million by 2030, it behooves us to use all of the tools at our disposal to monitor the bay for changes and to direct policy decisions that will affect the Bay's future.

The NASA Ocean Biology Processing Group is using its satellite ocean color and temperature data in conjunction with in situ data and algorithms from the ocean color community to improve our ability to map changes to the waters of the bay. It is hoped that techniques developed during this exercise will prove extensible to other coastal regions of our Earth. Details of the analyses performed to date are collected together at this web site along with references to related publications and presentations.


Southern California Fires

Fanned by hot, dry Santa Ana winds, forest fires burn out of control in southern California sending vast clouds of smoke out over the Pacific Ocean. The above image was collected in the afternoon on October 22, 2007. Larger and still larger versions of the above image show that the winds are also blowing oceanward farther south in Mexico but carrying dust instead of smoke. The larger views also show that there are no water clouds anywhere nearby in the drought-plagued southwestern United States.

Another view of the smoke was collected on October 23, 2007.


Gray Skies Over China

China, the world's most populous nation, also has one of the world's fastest growing economies. This combination places enormous pressure on the environment. One of those pressures comes in the form of degraded air quality which can be seen in this composite of MODIS data collected on November 14, 2007. Much of eastern China is not visible because of the thick pall of polluted air that hangs over the country. The Chinese government is hoping to partially tame the problem in time for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

The United States with its consumption oriented populace has long been the leader in greenhouse gas emissions. This may be changing as we export our unsustainable lifestyle to the rest of the world.

A larger version of the above image also shows Tropical Cyclone Sidr over the Bay of Bengal before it came ashore in Bangladesh.


Kamchatka Peninsula

This northward looking Terra-MODIS view of the Kamchatka Peninsula shows its snow covered mountains and volcanoes casting shadows toward the northwest.


Patchy South Atlantic Chlorophyll

Scenes such as the one above of the Patagonian Shelf region of the South Atlantic Ocean demonstrate one of the main reasons that we seek to measure chlorophyll (and other ocean color parameters) from space. The patterns shown are constantly changing -- sometimes at time scales of just a few hours. An entire fleet of ships following an exhausting sampling schedule could never hope to map this variability over such a large area. The satellite borne radiometer did it in less than ten minutes.

In addition to being valid measurements in their own right, data such as these increasingly allow researchers at sea to direct their sampling efforts to the locations that offer the greatest promise for scientific reward.

Click on the above image to get a larger version showing more of the region.


View from the Arctic

On July 9, 1999, just a few months after the creation of the Canadian territory called Nunavut, a younger SeaWiFS captured this southeastward looking view of that land flanked by Greenland and the Northwest Territories. At the time of the image, some areas of open water were visible, but much of the ocean was still ice covered. By late summer of 2007 much more of the sea ice in the region had melted -- opening up the normally obstructed Northwest Passage.

During the season when perhaps a few more minds than usual take note of the Arctic, we of the Ocean Biology Processing Group wish you a very happy holiday.


The Agulhas Current

The Agulhas Current transports warm salty water from the tropical Indian Ocean southwestward past the southern end of Africa where most of it gets retroflected back eastward while some of it is periodically injected into the South Atlantic Ocean. The warm water of the current is clearly visible in the above MODIS image collected on December 30, 2007.

Roll your mouse over the above image to see the low chlorophyll concentrations that are also found in this fast moving current.


The Chatham Rise

The Chatham Rise, extending eastward from the Banks Peninsula on New Zealand's South Island, separates two areas of deeper water to the north and south. Tides and other currents flowing over this submarine topography cause increased mixing in the water column. That and the location of the rise along the subtropical front often results in large blooms of phytoplankton in the area -- particularly during the austral spring and summer. The above image collected by Terra-MODIS on January 5, 2008 shows such blooms coloring the waters above the rise. The view is toward the west.


Southwest Indian Ocean SST

SST color scale
The Subtropical Front, the Agulhas Return Current, and the Subantarctic Front all lie close to each other in the southwest Indian Ocean giving this area some of the steepest temperature and salinity gradients in the global ocean. The above multi-year animation of nighttime sea surface temperatures measured by Aqua-MODIS shows the temperature gradients in this area (bottom third of animation) which become even more pronounced every summer as the sun warms the waters shown in the upper two thirds of the animation. The summertime warming is noticeably reduced along the west coast of Africa where coastal upwelling associated with the Benguela Current counteracts solar heating of the surface waters.


The Campbell Plateau

Currents and tides running over the Campbell Plateau stir up nutrients and fuel phytoplankton growth which is reflected in the above chlorophyll image collected on January 30, 2008 -- just before mid-summer. A click on the above image will show you similarly productive waters over the Chatham Rise and in the Tasman Sea which is reported to support "the largest noncoastal surface chlorophyll-a concentrations within the South Pacific Ocean."


Western Europe

Western Europe was largely cloud free albeit somewhat hazy on 11 February 2008 when Aqua-MODIS flew over and collected this view. Tidal currents around the British Isles stir up bottom sediments and turn the water brown in places. The Bristol Channel (second only to Canada's Bay of Fundy in tidal range) looks turbid over its entire length.

Click on the above image for a larger view which also shows African dust moving north over the Atlantic.


The Painters of the Arabian Sea

No Vincent Van Gogh or Edvard Munch produced the above patterns, but innumerable phytoplankton cells stirred by currents in the Arabian Sea.

Click on the above animation to see all of the pieces of this 20 February 2008 Aqua MODIS scene in one image, or here for a much larger (103 megabyte) version.


A Coastline Under Siege

Orbiting radiometers one hundred years from now will likely show a smaller Mississippi River Delta than this 27 February 2008 MODIS view. The delta is subsiding, sea level is rising, and the sediments that might rebuild the delta are channeled to the depths of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, river-borne nutrients from the farms and cities of the central United States are fueling blooms of phytoplankton which sink and decompose in such numbers every summer that they rob large volumes of coastal bottom waters of oxygen. Those creatures unable to leave these dead zones must perish -- their decomposing bodies adding to the oxygen demand.

Click on the above image for a larger view or here for larger still (99 megabytes).


Prince William Sound

At the north end of the Gulf of Alaska lies Prince William Sound. At the north end of Prince William Sound an environmental disaster struck 19 years ago that affected a large stretch of Alaska's coast. Substantial quantities of the spilled oil are still polluting the region.

The aquamarine swirls in this 13 March 2008 Aqua MODIS image could be partially attributed to phytoplankton, but they are more likely the result of wind and wave induced resuspension of sediments from the continental shelf whose edge very roughly follows the edge of the turbid water. Click on the above image for a larger view.


Georges Bank

On March 23, 2008 -- just beyond the vernal equinox -- snow still covers much of northern New England and the Canadian Maritimes. In this MODIS view of oceanic chlorophyll concentrations, however, the spring bloom is already under way over Nantucket Shoals and Georges Bank making those regions stand out at the southern end of the Gulf of Maine. Still farther south, the oligotrophic Gulf Stream meanders by, carrying plenty of heat but not much chlorophyll.

Click on the above image for a larger view with a color scale. True color versions are also available at 13 and 98 megabytes.


Where Africa Meets Europe

A mere 14 kilometers separate Europe from Africa at the narrowest part of the Strait of Gibraltar; nevertheless, a lot of water passes through the constriction. Evaporation exceeds rainfall and river input in the Mediterranean, so lower salinity Atlantic water flows in at the surface to make up the deficit. Higher salinity Mediterranean water flows outward at depth forming meddies that have been tracked through large portions of the Atlantic.

Click on the above image for a larger view or here for still higher resolution (46 megabytes).


March 2004 Oil Fire in Iraq

Burning oil from a ruptured pipeline was spreading dark smoke clouds over southern Iraq and the Persian Gulf on March 24, 2004.

Click on the above image for a larger view or here for a still broader perspective.


Cyanobacteria Bloom in the Baltic Sea

This MODIS image showing a dense phytoplankton bloom was collected on July 10, 2005. The bloom looks very similar to one seen two years earlier which was reported to be a harmfull algal bloom of the cyanobacteria, Nodularia spumigena.

Click on the above image for a larger view.


New Zealand

On April 10, 2008, the islands of this modern day Middle Earth were mostly cloud free when the Aqua spacecraft flew by. This provided the MODIS instrument with a clear view of the varied topography and surrounding ocean which supports abundant marine life including squid, sperm whales, and dolphins.

A click on the above image will get you a much larger (44 megabyte) version.


Great Lakes: 14 April 2008


Smoke Over Buenos Aires

Smoke from agricultural fires along the Parana River was drifting through Buenos Aires on April 18, 2008 when Aqua-MODIS acquired this image.

Farther south and east at the edge of the continental shelf and south of the smoke cloud, a vigorous phytoplankton bloom colors the water dark green.


Cyclone Nargis Stirs the Waters of Myamnmar

The usually turbid Gulf of Martaban in Myanmar became even more turbid after Tropical Cyclone Nargis swept over it in early May 2008. The ocean around the Irrawaddy Delta (to the west of the Gulf) also showed higher turbidity and advected a long aquamarine plume into the Bay of Bengal.

Click on the above animation for a larger version or download full resolution versions of the 12 April 2008 and 5 May 2008 MODIS scenes (52 megabytes each) that form the basis of the animation.


How can ye blume sae fair!

So wrote Robert Burns of The Banks o' Doon, but he might have said the same about the North Sea on the other side of Scotland if he could have seen it the way we do. The air to the west of Scotland was hazy on May 8, 2008, but clearer skies over the North Sea revealed multihued waters colored by divers phytoplankton assemblages. (Click on the above image to see more of the region at higher resolution.)


What's This?

This could perhaps pass for a satellite oceanographer's Rorschach test. Click on the image to learn what one oceanographer saw, both figuratively and otherwise.


North American West Coast

This oblique view shows the North American west coast on 24 September 2006. The smoke plume coming from northern California is from the Bar Complex/Pigeon Fire. The plume coming from southern California is from the Day Fire. Click on the above image for a larger view or get the higher resolution 116 megabyte version or the 116 megabyte version with state and provincial borders drawn in.


Shiretoko Peninsula

The above image shows the Shiretoko Peninsula on the Japanese island of Hokkaido on June 5, 2008. The peninsula has been designated a United Nations World Heritage Site in no small part because of the sea ice that collects here in the winter. (Move your pointer over the image to see the same area three months earlier.) Cold, Siberian winds and fresh water outflow from the Amur River help make sea ice possible this far south. There is now concern that global warming may soon make Shiretoko's productivity enhancing sea ice a thing of the past.

Full-resolution regional views:

8 March 2008 120 megabytes
5 June 2008 99 megabytes

Estuaries of Southern Brazil

MODIS captured this cloud free view of the lagoons of southern Brazil (click for a broader view) on June 11, 2008. Recent strong winds in the area probably account for much of the offshore turbidity on this day, but the Rio de la Plata to the south (visible in the larger image) is also known to send plumes of turbid, fresher water northward along the coast, and the brown water jetting out of the Patos Lagoon contributes a bit more. That lagoon itself appears to be receiving suspended sediment via a channel from Lagoa Mirim just off the lower left corner of the above image.


The Lena and the Laptev

The Lena, one of the world's longest rivers, flows for thousands of kilometers through varying Russian terrain before emptying through its large flat delta into the Laptev Sea. The above images show different segments of the river and its outflow from a single MODIS scene collected in the summer of 2000.

For much of the year the northern reaches of the river are completely frozen over as in this view from an airplane taken two and a half years after the MODIS image was collected. (This cut-out of the MODIS image shows the window-seat perspective).

A full-resolution 121 megabyte version of the 25 August 2000 MODIS image is also available.


Green Algae and the Olympics



Giant bands of bright green algae threaten to disrupt the upcoming Olympic sailing events at the venue in Qingdao. The Chinese government has mobilized thousands of volunteers to scoop the algae from the water in hopes of controlling the boat-stopping invasion by July 10th.

Comparison of two MODIS images -- one collected on 28 June 2008 and one on 6 July 2008 -- seems to show that natural forces are aiding the cleanup. The earlier image clearly shows the vast extent of this massive algae bloom; in the later image the dense green patches around the sailing venue appear to have dispersed somewhat although similar patches are still visible to the south and about a hundred kilometers to the northeast.


Journey to the Center of the Bloom

The white spot in the middle of the lower bit of land in the above MODIS image is snow and ice covered Snæfellsjökull, the volcano where Jules Verne's travelers began their descent into the bowels of the Earth. This month, those who travel to the volcano's summit at the end of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in western Iceland may find that they have a good view of some pretty reflective phytoplankton blooms in the Atlantic all around them.

The above image, collected on 10 July 2008, links to a broader view that shows most of Iceland including the location of Surtsey (a new World Heritage site) and part of Greenland including Scoresby Sund where the ice cover is breaking up. Those who need higher resolution can download the 78 megabyte version.


The Black and the Red, the Sahara and Med

Data collected by both MODIS instruments on July 8, 2008 were combined to produce this view of the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean, Red and Black seas. The Red Sea is partially obscured by a large dust storm and equally massive thunderstorm. The Black Sea is anything but, as phytoplankton in that eutrophic sea color the water various shades of green and aquamarine.

Click on the above image for a larger view, or download a still larger 68 megabyte version.


Cyanobacteria in the Baltic

As in previous summers, the populations of cyanobacteria in the Baltic Sea have swelled to such numbers that they are readily visible from orbit. Some of the species contributing to this year's blooms are potentially toxic, and toxic and non-toxic alike can contribute to the formation of anoxic dead zones when they sink and decompose. The blooms have been attributed to a recent heatwave and nutrient runoff from the surrounding countries. Waste from the cruise ship industry has also been implicated in the continuing eutrophication of the Baltic.

Jet contrails throw shadows on the bloom around Gotland in the above MODIS image from July 27, 2008. Click on it for the entire Baltic view, or see the MODIS view of the blooms on July 25, 2008.


Ribbons of Green in the Deep Blue Sea

If you were on a ship in this part of the world, you would normally expect to find clear blue ocean stretching from horizon to horizon. Sometimes, however, the ocean offers up the unexpected.


SeaWiFS Returns to Monitoring Our Home

We are so happy to report that after many months of hard work on the part of the folks at GeoEye, Orbital Sciences and NASA, SeaWiFS has been returned to normal operations as of yesterday, and, from what we have been able to tell so far from the imagery and telemetry, all systems are performing as they should and hopefully, this will be the resumption of a long and incredibly valuable data set. Thanks to everyone involved for their efforts on getting us back.

The above image shows Tropical Storm Fay and the eastern U.S. on August 20, 2008 while a more global perspective shows what other regions looked like on the same day.


Tropical Storm Hanna

SeaWiFS collected this view of Tropical Storm Hanna on September 4, 2008.


Northwestern Gulf of Mexico

A cloudless Saturday over Louisiana and southeastern Texas reveals a tens of kilometers wide brownish band along the coast where storm surge from Hurricane Ike left sediments and muddy water and dead vegetation after it came ashore two weeks earlier. Offshore, turbulent currents mix the muddy runoff with the clear blue waters farther south.

While property owners within the brown band did not fare well, some residents of the region -- namely, the benthos -- may have benefitted from the storm which likely oxygenated the dead zone that forms here in the summertime.

A larger version of this 27 September 2008 MODIS image is also available.


Pacific Northwest

Smoke from forest fires in Oregon and California hangs over the Pacific Ocean in this oblique, northwestward looking view of the Pacific Northwest collected on September 29, 2008. Click on the image above for a broader view or get a still larger version.


Italy

During the week of October 5, 2008, the Ocean Optics XIX Meeting is being held in Tuscany, Italy. This Terra MODIS image was collected on August 31, 2006. Click on the above image for a broader view or get a still larger version.


Hurricane Norbert

At the time that this MODIS image was collected on October 8, 2008, Hurricane Norbert was a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 135 miles per hour. The storm weakened before it crossed the Baja California Peninsula and the Gulf of California (visible in the foreground) on Saturday, October 11 and then continued across Mexico toward western Texas -- weakening further as it went.


Chlorophyll in Norbert's Wake

Several days after Hurricane Norbert passed through the area, Aqua-MODIS measured elevated chlorophyll concentrations along the track of the storm (marked in red).

Tropical surface waters are often isolated from deeper nutrient pools by their own solar-induced buoyancy. Storms like Norbert can overcome this stratification as they pass -- mixing up deeper, nutrient-rich water and thereby stimulating enhanced phytoplankton growth in their wakes.


Ocean Color

The above image of the ocean east of Tasmania in December, 2004 may not depict the ocean as we might expect to see it, but it does serve to highlight (in a completely unscientific fashion) subtle differences in water color that result from varying distributions of such scattering and absorbing agents in the water column as phytoplankton, colored dissolved organic matter, suspended sediment, bubbles, etc. The ocean colors shown above result from independently scaling the satellite-derived normalized water-leaving radiances (nLw) at 551, 488, and 412 nanometers and using the results as the red, green, and blue components of the image, respectively. To the extent that the methods used to compute nLw do not perfectly correct the instrument, atmosphere, and sea surface reflections seen at the Aqua-MODIS detectors, differences in the above colors may also partially reflect differences in atmospheric components or levels of sun and sky glint or differences in the path that light takes through the MODIS instrument. It is our goal as a satellite ocean color project to minimize these various sources of error so that our derived products may have maximum usefulness for the monitoring and understanding of our ever changing oceans.


White Water over Blue

Our planet is called blue for its oceans; nevertheless, that blue is always partially hidden by an ever-moving, global collection of water droplets and ice crystals that add substantial whiteness to Earth's mien. It is because these clouds move, that ocean color scientists can ply their trade -- taking advantage of ocean-reflected light from cloud-free areas to deduce optical properties of the water column.

The above SeaWiFS composite -- collected during half a day on October 26, 2008 -- depicts Earth's cloudiness well but still offers views of interesting ocean features such as spring blooms across the Patagonian Shelf, Mississippi-River-enhanced greenness in the northern Gulf of Mexico, and darkness in the southeastern Caribbean caused by CDOM in the Orinoco River plume. Click on the above image for a larger view (4.8 megabytes).


Queensland and the Reef

The Great Barrier Reef stretches more than 2000 kilometers along the coast of Queensland, Australia -- a massive carbonate structure built by tiny gelatinous polyps. Corals here and everywhere else in Earth's tropical oceans are threatened by multiple factors such as increasing ocean temperatures, increasing ocean acidity, and increased nutrient loading.

The above image was collected by Aqua-MODIS on November 4, 2008.
Additional resolutions:


Where the South Atlantic meets the Southern Ocean

The South Atlantic Ocean transitions to the recently officially recognized Southern Ocean across a number of fronts. The subantarctic and polar fronts have been found to lie fairly close to each other roughly 4 to 7 hundred kilometers north of South Georgia Island. The eddy pictured above falls within this frontal region and is made visible by the different phytoplankton communities that thrive along the fronts.

Download the 26 December 2006 MODIS image showing a larger region including partially cloud covered South Georgia Island:

The tabular iceberg visible beneath the clouds to the south of South Georgia Island has been identified as Iceberg A22A.


Gulf of Tonkin

Chlorophyll concentrations in the Gulf of Tonkin peak in winter when the northeast monsoon promotes upwelling of nutrients from deeper waters. This natural color rendering collected on December 2, 2008 shows variations in water color and clarity across the northern portion of the gulf. It shows some of chlorophyll's greening influence as well as other constituents of the water column such as the suspended sediments off the west coast of Hainan (bottom center) and along the Red River delta (visible further west in larger image).

Larger versions:


Central American Wind Tunnels

During the winter, atmospheric pressure gradients cause strong winds to funnel through three topographic lows in Central America. The winds blow out over the Pacific from the gulfs of Tehuantepec, Papagayo, and Panama forcing surface waters offshore to be replaced by deep, nutrient-replete waters that fuel phytoplankton blooms. If you click on the above image, you can see an animation spanning several years that shows the cold water plumes that result from these winds. The winds begin each fall at the northernmost pass by Golfo de Tehuantepec (top frame above) and progress next to Golfo de Papagayo (middle frame) and Golfo de Panama (bottom frame) as winter progresses to spring.


Shadows of the Midnight Sun

Those of us who live in the northern hemisphere expect to see the sun track across the southern part of our sky; folks in the southern hemisphere, not so much... unless they happen to be south of the antarctic circle in or near summertime... and awake in the middle of the night.

The above image of the area around Ross Island, Antarctica was collected at 1:15 in the early morning on December 19, 2008 (New Zealand Daylight Time). Shadows thrown by mountains and clouds show the sun to be in the south. Even at this early hour of the morning, there is enough light to make out the green color of the Ross Sea where phytoplankton are thriving in the high-nutrient, 24-hour-daylight environment.

A larger view showing more of the Ross Sea and the Transantarctic Mountains is also available (8.5 megabytes).


Remote South Pacific Phytoplankton

About 2600 kilometers northeast of McMurdo Sound, the onset of summer also brings enhanced phytoplankton growth to the South Pacific Ocean. Move your pointer over the natural color image above to see chlorophyll concentrations computed from MODIS data collected on January 3, 2009.

The small white spots clustered just beneath and to the right of the center of the above image are icebergs.


Southeastern United States

It is a rare day when the entire coastline of the southeastern United States is cloud free at the same moment. January 9, 2009 was nearly such a day, and, from the perspective of the MODIS instrument on the Aqua satellite, the ocean also happened to be sunglint free at the same time. This is usually a winning combination from the perspective of a remote-sensing, ocean-color scientist. Click on the above image to see the coastal waters from Ocean City, Maryland to New Orleans, Louisiana. A still higher resolution 35 megabyte version is also available.


What Might These Images Have To Do With Horses?
the South Atlantic horse latitudes as seen in MODIS imagery
The depicted area is at the southern end of the region traditionally referred to as the horse latitudes where sailors of old were at times becalmed. Click the image above to find out how the horse latitudes might manifest themselves to orbiting spacecraft.


Smoke Down Under

Intense fires have been burning in southeastern Australia. On Sunday, February 8, 2009, a plume of yellowish smoke roughly 5000 kilometers long stretched eastward across New Zealand's South Island and beyond across the South Pacific. Many of the smoke particles will eventually settle in the ocean where they may help to fertilize phytoplankton growth.

Click on the image above for a broader view or here for a still higher resolution version (8 megabytes).


Which of These Blooms is Not Like the Others?

This is a bit of a trick question really as all of the higher chlorophyll patches shown as yellow and red features in the image above have their own unique histories and environments. For instance, the red patch showing through a break in the clouds near the top center of the above image may be influenced in part by the presence of Gough Island to the east. If you move your pointer over the image, however, you will see which bloom results from the iron fertilization experiment called LOHAFEX that took place in the South Atlantic in early 2009.

Click on the image above for a larger view of the 14 February 2009 MODIS scene, or download the corresponding natural color view.


Dust in the Wind

Much dust has been blowing from northern Africa and the Middle East of late. This can be seen in the above SeaWiFS composite collected over the course of March 5, 2009.


Ireland

This recent Terra-MODIS view of Ireland (7 February 2009) showing scattered snow cover on the island -- particularly in the north and in the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin -- is offered up in recognition of St. Patrick's Day. Click the image above or download a 5.7 megabyte version covering a larger region.


Mediterranean Blooms

The spring bloom has come to the western Mediterranean Sea. If you click on the above image you can view a larger region with comparison images collected one and six months earlier. A natural color version of the 17 March 2009 MODIS image is also available.


New Zealand

March 24, 2009 brought clear skies to much of New Zealand revealing -- among other things -- volcanoes on the North Island and brightly colored glacial lakes and gravelly river beds on the South Island. Coastal waters are brightened by river runoff and sediment resuspension over the continental shelf.

Click on the above MODIS image for a larger view (2 megabytes) or get the still larger 7 megabyte version.


Hokkaido


The Japanese island of Hokkaido may have still been largely snow covered, but the surrounding ocean was blooming on April 3, 2009. The cold Oyashio current flows past the island bringing a rich nutrient supply from the north which feeds phytoplankton powered by the spring sunshine. The warm Kuroshio Current collides with the Oyashio near the bottom right of the above image and both turn eastward to become the North Pacific Current.


Sediment Export

The rains and melting snows of spring wash over the central United States and lift millions of tons of soil from the farms that feed us. Much of this eroded soil flows in suspension down levied river channels that are no longer allowed to flood, so it misses opportunities for redeposition and eventually reaches the northern Gulf of Mexico. High concentrations of nutrients from our farms, lawns, and sewage treatment plants come along for the ride to fuel large phytoplankton blooms. As the plankton die and decompose they deplete the water of the oxygen that most animals need to survive thereby creating a large dead zone in the northern Gulf.

The above MODIS image of the Atchafalaya sediment plume spans about 130 kilometers from top to bottom (north to south). Click on it to see more of the sediment-enriched coastal waters as they appeared on April 7, 2009.


Advancing Tide

Move your pointer over the above image of the northeastern end of the Bay of Fundy to see the effects of the tidal currents there. Click on the image for more detail.


The Congo River Plume

The Congo is one of the Earth's largest rivers, and it exerts a large influence on the primary production of the equatorial Atlantic Ocean. Recent work has implicated the plume of the Congo along with those of other tropical rivers such as the Amazon as a major site of phytoplankton-driven carbon sequestration. Primary production in these river plumes is enhanced by the presence of nitrogen fixing phytoplankton.

The mouth of the Congo is shown above. Click on the image to see the dark river plume extending nearly a thousand kilometers seaward of smoky Africa into the blue South Atlantic on July 7, 2008.


Orinoco Flow

The Orinoco River regularly sends a plume of water into the Caribbean in the fall. This has already been documented in the early days of satellite ocean color measurement using CZCS data and more recently via time series of in situ measurements from a station south of Puerto Rico. Researchers in the area have remarked that this year's plume is unusually large and occurs at an unusual time prompting some to suggest that the Amazon River may instead be the source of this plume.

You can see the green water extending northward past Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the above image. Move your pointer over the image to see computed chlorophyll concentrations in the plume (purples and blues: low; yellows and reds: high). Larger chlorophyll and true color images are also available.



A large dust storm blew across eastern Australia on October 23, 2002. The above sequence of daily MODIS composites shows Australia before, during, and after the passage of the storm. The ellipses show the position of the cloud on October 23rd and 24th. The yellow-green arrows indicate the locations of large smoke plumes from wild fires. Click on any of the above panels to download the corresponding image.

22 October 2002 22 October 2002 23 October 2002 23 October 2002 24 October 2002 24 October 2002

Alaskan Spring

Melting snows, retreating sea ice, and greening offshore waters are signs of spring around Alaska in this MODIS composite collected on May 2nd and 3rd, 2009. Click on the above image for a broader view including all of the eastern portion of the Bering Sea.


Oyashio Blooms

Divers phytoplankton communities lend their different colors to the southern end of the Oyashio Current during the spring bloom. The bands of color in this 21 May 2009 MODIS image of the Pacific east of Japan highlight the eddy field that forms where that southwestward flowing current turns to the east -- eventually joining with the Kuroshio Current to become the North Pacific Current. Sun glint obscures the southwestern corner of this image while aerosols from Asia obscure the northeastern corner.


Macroalgae blooms in the Yellow Sea

MODIS image off Qingdoa, China on June 22, 2009

A massive bloom of the green macroalgae, Enteromorpha prolifera, occurred in the Yellow Sea in June 2009. The MODIS image on 22 June 2009 shows the extensive slicks of the algae that cover approximately 900 square kilometers in an area of about 24,000 square kilometers. A similar bloom event occurred between May and July 2008 in the same area, which caused a significant burden on the local government and the public when the algae were washed ashore near Qingdao, China. The bloom is believed to result from the rapid expansion of the nearly seaweed aquaculture, and may reoccur in the future.


Timing is everything. In the summer of 1969, within one day of each other, two courageous crews set out to explore new frontiers. Both were NASA missions of pure discovery. One would go to the Sea of Tranquility, the other to explore as no person had done before or has done since, the massive eastern boundary current known as the Gulf Stream.

For eight days in July, the world looked skyward, transfixed, as Apollo 11, with three astronauts aboard, rocketed to the Moon. Very few, however, were aware of the launch of Grumman/Piccard PX-15. Manned by six brave aquanauts, the mesoscaph Ben Franklin endured a perilous 30 day, 1400 mile drift-dive deep in the Gulf Stream collecting an unprecedented wealth of oceanographic observations and providing NASA with its first real analogue for prolonged missions in space.

The achievements of Apollo 11 have since become a celebrated event in human history; the astronauts are American heroes. The achievements of PX-15 and her crew were hardly noticed, and remain to most Americans, unknown.

This historic but forgotten mission began on July 14, 1969. Explore the story of this remarkable adventure as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the other NASA mission into the unknown.




SeaWiFS data collected on July 22, 2009 were darkened by the shadow of the Moon.


The mysterious lives of leatherbacks

When biologist Michael James captured and tagged his first leatherback sea turtle off the eastern coast of Canada in 1999, he was pursuing a mysterious animal. No one knew why Atlantic leatherbacks appeared in the frigid northern waters each year. In fact, researchers knew little at all about leatherbacks, except that they were endangered.

Read the full story to learn how researchers are using satellite ocean color and temperature data to advance our understanding of marine creatures such as the leatherback.

In the words of Michael James,

"We were able to tap into these databases pretty quickly and grab values relative to each turtle's position. I want to stress the value of making the environmental data free, and making it available on the Web. The continuity is really important for projects like ours."


On November 24, 1859, Charles Darwin's Origin of Species was published. One hundred and fifty years later -- even as measurements from modern orbiting observatories extend our understanding of Earth's life forms -- there is still much to be learned by doing research the old-fashioned way as Darwin did, by hand.

Click on the above image to follow a recent retracing of Darwin's footsteps in the Galapagos Islands.

The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection Beagle Crater on Isabela Island Charles Darwin chlorophyll concentration around the Galapagos Islands

The Chatham Rise

The Chatham Rise -- extending from New Zealand's South Island (just beyond the left edge of the above image) to the Chatham Islands (shown) -- separates two areas of deeper water to the north and south. Tides and other currents flowing over this submarine topography cause increased mixing in the water column. That and the location of the rise along the subtropical front often results in large blooms of phytoplankton in the area -- particularly during the austral spring and summer. The above image collected by Aqua-MODIS on December 23, 2009 shows such blooms coloring the waters above the rise.

Roll your pointer over the above image to see ocean depth contours given in meters which show the location of the rise extending horizontally across the middle of the image. Click on the image for a higher resolution view of a broader region.


Prydz Bay Productivity

Some, but not all, of the coastal regions around Antarctica are highly productive during the austral summer. Prydz Bay at the terminus of the Lambert Glacier in East Antarctica is one of these regions. The above MODIS image from January 3, 2010 shows the very green, phytoplankton filled water that contrasts markedly with bluer coastal waters farther west in the image. Higher levels of nutrients and the presence of sunlight-passing polynyas in areas such as Prydz Bay may partially explain why some of these icy water masses are more productive than others.

You may click on the above image for a larger 3.9 megabyte version, or you may download an 11 megabyte version.


Ocean Color Patagonian Style

Environmental factors off the east coast of Patagonia make large phytoplankton blooms possible every spring and summer. The resulting variations in water color -- seen in the above image collected on January 9, 2010 -- are in large part due to spectral variations in light absorbtion by the phytoplankton, detritus, and colored dissolved organic matter in the water. Light scattering agents such as the calcite plates produced by coccolithophores also contribute to the observed color differences. (The bright aquamarine regions of the above image likely contain large numbers of coccolithophores.) Further complicating the ocean color field above, sunlight reflecting directly from the ocean's surface gives a washed out look to the lower left corner of the image.

Images of the broader region are available in the following sizes.

23 January 1960

Twelve humans have walked on the Moon...

Hundreds have climbed Mount Everest...

Thousands have crossed the Poles....

But only TWO humans have ever journeyed to the ocean's greatest abyss...

On January 23, 1960, the Bathyscaphe Trieste with Jacques Piccard and Lieutenant Don Walsh crammed into the tiny pressure sphere, reached the ocean floor in the Challenger Deep, the deepest southern part of the Mariana Trench.

Today, there is no manned submersible in operation that can go where those two men went in 1960.

Since the above was written, one more person has descended into the Challenger Deep.


Prince Edward Islands Plume

The topographic effect of the Prince Edward Islands in the predominantly eastward flowing currents of the southwestern Indian Ocean along with input of nutrients from the volcanic soils of the islands themselves and significant runoff of seabird and seal guano in the abundant local rainfall often results in a down-current plume of relatively high chlorophyll concentrations.

Farther north in the larger image, the higher chlorophyll associated with the Agulhas Return Current is visible. North of that a cyclonic, cold-core eddy stands out from its low chlorophyll surroundings.


Black & Caspian Seas

The Danube River sends a plume into the Black Sea in this multi-orbit MODIS composite while the Volga River sends its plume into the north end of the Caspian Sea.

This image comprises data collected on May 20, 2009.


U.S. Gulf Coast

Tons of sediment flush out of the Mississippi watershed into the northern Gulf of Mexico, feeding massive phytoplankton blooms that can deplete the water of oxygen when they sink and die. The resulting "dead zones" affect much of the pictured area during the summertime when vertical mixing of the water column is reduced.

This Aqua MODIS image was collected on January 22, 2010.


East Asia Dust Storm

This large dust storm over east Asia was imaged by Terra-MODIS on 7 April 2001.


Phytoplankton Blooms in the Arabian Sea

The above MODIS view of the northern Arabian Sea on 18 February 2010 -- toward the end of the winter monsoon -- shows very green water drawn into thin ribbons by a turbulent eddy field. Recent research in the area hints that "phytoplankton blooms may perhaps be undergoing a systematic species shift, with traditional winter-time diatom bloom populations being replaced by Noctiluca miliaris" which "may be an indication that the Arabian Sea ecosystem is becoming more eutrophic."

The identification of phytoplankton species from satellite data alone is generally ill-advised, so the best that can be said regarding the above blooms is that they might be Noctiluca miliaris based on the authors' statement that this species "tends to aggregate at the surface to form large, slimy green patches."

Move your pointer over the above image to see the depicted region in relation to the rest of the Arabian Sea. Click on the image to download a larger version.


Bering Sea Bloom

This image shows a likely coccolithophore bloom in the Bering Sea.


Ice Inside the Ring of Fire

Sea ice, under the combined influences of wind and ocean currents, forms a frosty filigree along Kamchatka's volcano dominated coastline on March 16, 2010.


The Color of Spring

With the exception of a few areas such as the New Jersey Pine Barrens which support many evergreen trees, most of the northeastern United States is still rather brown as we pass the vernal equinox. Offshore, much brownish water is also evident where runoff from recent rains and snowmelt carries suspended sediment to the ocean. Click on the above image, however, and you will see broad bands of green still farther offshore where the phytoplankton of the spring bloom are becoming visible to sensors like MODIS.


North American Mid Atlantic Coastline

This MODIS image of eastern North America was captured on November 8, 2009.


Optical Complexity in the East China Sea

The waters of the East China Sea present many challenges to oceanographers who would like to use the broad and nearly instantaneous views afforded by orbiting radiometers to characterize the various components of the water column. To interpret the above image collected by Terra-MODIS on March 29, 2010 one must take into account suspended sediments, colored dissolved organic matter, phytoplankton chlorophyll, atmospheric aerosols, and sun glint -- all present to greater or lesser degree, and all having overlapping spectral signatures. Such challenges notwithstanding, remote sensing scientists continue to tune their algorithms to improve our understanding of these complex waters. A recent study seeks to measure total suspended matter using satellite scenes like this one.


Transatlantic Dust

So far this spring, higher than average quantities of dust have been riding the trade winds from northern Africa to South America and the Caribbean. A sequence of twelve days of SeaWiFS data shows the tan-colored atmosphere in a wide band that stretches unbroken all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.


Eyjafjallajökull's Long Reach

On April 15, 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano on Iceland had sent a plume of ash eastward toward northern Europe -- causing the shutdown of air traffic in much of the region.


Seeing Past the Ash

The feature that first grabs the eye when looking at the above 11 May 2010 MODIS image is the long plume of ash streaming southward from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Look to either side of the plume, however, and you can make out the swirling patterns of green and turquoise that indicate the blooming phytoplankton populations that are common to Iceland's waters at this time of year.

Although these blooms probably have no direct connection to this volcanic eruption, some researchers look for evidence that volcanic ash may under certain conditions serve as a fertilizer for phytoplankton growth.


Northeast Atlantic Blooms

The waters of the northeastern Atlantic Ocean are swirling with various phytoplankton communities in this May 22, 2010 MODIS image. The brighter waters, which lie very roughly along the edge of the continental shelf, are most likely colored by coccolithophores.


Coccoliths in the Skagerrak

All of southern Norway was enveloped in turquoise water on June 4, 2010. While the bright color in some of the fjords may be caused by suspended rock flour, most of the color offshore likely results from blooms of coccolithophores.

Click on the image above to zoom out to a broader region that includes a bloom along the edge of the Celtic Sea that was significantly brighter two weeks before.


ICESCAPE

NASA has mounted an oceanographic field campaign in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. At the time that the above MODIS image was collected on June 28, 2010 at around 6:20 in the morning Alaska time, NASA scientists aboard the U.S. Coast Guard's icebreaker, Healy, were near Barrow Alaska just under the southern edge of the cloud vortex that is partially hiding the ice edge.

Roll your pointer over the above image for a closer view of northwestern Alaska or click on the above image for a much larger version.


The Bering Strait

The Bering Strait is the only connection between the Pacific and Arctic oceans. Water flowing northward between Russia and Alaska carries much heat that can affect the sea ice in the Arctic.

The above MODIS image was collected on July 8, 2010 (July 9th on the Russian side of the strait).


A Boost for SeaWiFS

It's a pleasure to let everyone know that after much planning, some great teamwork on the part of all the folks involved and thirteen burns, SeaWiFS is now happily orbiting the earth from its new altitude of 781.5 kilometers. This orbit raising, along with a very slight change in the inclination, has not only stopped the rapidly accelerating drift of the spacecraft into the afternoon (it is now crossing the equator at approximately 2:20 pm local time) but has reversed that drift, and the spacecraft will now gradually return to an orbit with a crossing time closer to 12:20 pm. The SeaWiFS instrument resumed routine operations on July 12, 2010, and we received our first downlink and the data look fine. We will be looking closely at the data to see what, if any, change there might be due to the change in orbit, but we don't anticipate anything major.

SeaWiFS will be celebrating the 13th anniversary of its launch on August 1, 1997 this year, so rather than a cake with thirteen candles, perhaps it is appropriate that it required 13 burns to put it back into an orbit that will allow it to continue collecting this unprecedented record of our changing earth.


Atlantic Cyclones

SeaWiFS collected this view of four separate cyclonic systems -- including Hurricane Danielle, then-Tropical-Storm Earl, and soon-to-be Tropical Storm Fiona -- in the North Atlantic on Saturday, August 28, 2010. In addition to moving large quantities of water and heat, these systems also appear to be distributing large quantities of North African dust around the Atlantic basin. Meanwhile a cyclonic storm in the South Atlantic rotates in the opposite direction from its northern-hemisphere counterparts and sucks smoke seaward from the many fires burning on the South American continent.

Click on the above image for a larger version (2.8 MB).


Barents Sea

As is common this time of year, the waters of the Barents Sea are once again brightened by blooms of coccolithophores which give the ocean a turquoise hue. The variations in color in the above image likely reflect differences in phytoplankton community composition and depth distribution. Diatoms, which tend to dominate earlier in the season, may account for some of the greener patches of water.

The above Aqua-MODIS image was collected on August 31, 2010.


Ocean Optics XX

The Ocean Optics Conference -- a diverse international gathering of folk who share a fascination with optical oceanography -- is being held this week (27 September - 1 October, 2010) in Anchorage, Alaska.

On September 24, 2010, Aqua-MODIS collected this view of Alaska and the Bering Sea. Click on the thumbnail above for a larger version (6.7 MB).


New Zealand Spring

Phytoplankton blooming in the waters around New Zealand herald springtime in the southern hemisphere.

A broader version of the above Aqua MODIS image from October 5, 2010 can be downloaded (3.4 megabytes) by clicking on the above view.


Filamentous Blooms South of Fiji

Although one cannot positively identify the above features without sea-level confirmation, it is likely that these filaments in the ocean south of Fiji are composed of floating colonies of the nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium, Trichodesmium. Charles Darwin offered an early description of these organisms during his voyage aboard the HMS Beagle.

A broader version of the above Aqua MODIS image from October 18, 2010 can be downloaded (2.7 megabytes) by clicking on the above view.


Coccolithophores around Sable Island


The Lakes of South Central Asia

At times the satellite view of south central Asia looks as if someone had scattered blue and green gemstones across the Tibetan Plateau. Differences in water depth, biology, geology, and chemistry lend great variety of color to the lakes of the region.

The above lakes are all shown at the same scale and with a north-is-up orientation, but they have been geographically rearranged. They can be viewed in their proper context in the Aqua-MODIS image of November 10, 2010.


The Chatham Islands

The waters around New Zealand's Chatham Islands host large phytoplankton blooms this time of year. The above MODIS image was collected on December 5, 2010.


Phytoplankton Soup du Jour

Take water, salts, nutrients, sunlight, and a diverse assemblage of phytoplankton and then blow across the water and spin the planet to stir it all. The result can, at times, be a rich, colorful brew as in this summer-solstice view of the waters off the Patagonian coast.

The above 21 December 2010 Aqua-MODIS image was created from seven separate spectral bands to highlight differences in the plankton communities across the region. A separate version of the image -- closer to natural color -- is also available.

We of the Ocean Biology Processing Group wish you a happy and safe holiday season.


Queensland Floodwaters Move Offshore

Heavy flooding in Queensland is sending large volumes of turbid, nutrient-replete water toward Australia's Great Barrier Reef. This is not good news for the already stressed ecosystem which needs -- among other factors -- clear water and low nutrient concentrations to thrive.

The above plume from the Burdekin River was viewed by the Aqua-MODIS instrument on January 4, 2011. The broader version of the image shows similar outflow from other rivers in the region such as the Fitzroy farther south.

By the time of the 11 January 2011 MODIS image, the plumes from the flooded Fitzroy, Burnett, and Mary rivers all appeared to be flowing northward along the coast -- the discolored water reaching well into the Northumberland Islands -- while long linear features characteristic of Trichodesmium blooms filled the water farther offshore.


The Bottom of the Food Web at the Bottom of the World

Every summer the waters of the Ross Sea -- pictured above on January 22, 2011 -- host large phytoplankton blooms which eventually, through the food web, feed everything from small krill to whales. Researchers are currently plying those waters in search of the source of the nutrients that, together with the 24-hour sunlight, fuel those blooms.


New Zealand: Antarctic Staging Ground

To an oceanographer, the ocean around New Zealand in the summertime must provide a fascinating field of study. The above February 10, 2011 Aqua-MODIS image cries out for closer investigation from sea level. Some ocean scientists, however, come to New Zealand with different waters in mind.

Christchurch (just northwest of the large, rounded Banks Peninsula in the above image) serves as a staging ground for Antarctica, and that is where our staff member, Aimee Neeley, was waiting for her flight to McMurdo Station where she boarded the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer to spend several weeks studying the Southern Ocean. She is keeping a blog to share her Antarctic experiences with the community. She will discuss daily life on an oceanographic vessel and describe the scientific questions and measurements that are the basis of the cruise. We invite you to follow along.


SeaWiFS: 1 August 1997 - 11 December 2010



Kerguélen Islands

The Kerguélen Islands are rarely this cloud free when ocean color sensors orbit overhead. This Aqua MODIS image from 24 February 2011 clearly shows the plume of increased phytoplankton biomass that is usually found in the wake of these islands.


Winter Color in the Bering Sea

Ice floating on the water and particles suspended in the water get swirled around by the same currents in this Bering Sea image collected by Aqua-MODIS on March 2nd, 2011 (March 3rd on the Russian side). The aquamarine swirls in the water probably result from the stirring up of sediments by winter storms from the relatively shallow continental shelf in that part of the sea. It seems a bit early in the year for phytoplankton like coccolithophores to be contributing to the bright color seen by the satellite. A recent study does indicate that phytoplankton blooms in the Arctic and boreal North Pacific are occuring earlier than they used to, however.


The Challenge of Ocean Color Remote Sensing in the Southern Ocean

By March 15, 2011, scientists aboard the research vessel, Nathaniel B. Palmer, were almost halfway through their two-month-long cruise from McMurdo Station, Antarctica to Punta Arenas, Chile. The Aqua-MODIS image collected on that day highlights the difficulty faced by oceanographers who wish to match data collected at sea level in the Southern Ocean with ocean color data collected from orbit. This is a cloudy part of the world. The above image is typical of the satellite imagery so far during the cruise. At the time the above image was collected, the ship was just west of one of the rare large openings in the cloud cover.

With clouds sometimes also come winds. Click on the above image to see that the Palmer has been subject to winds in excess of 30 knots already on several occasions. This also makes sea-level oceanographic measurements difficult.

Our colleage, Aimee Neeley, is keeping a blog on her cruise experiences as is her shipmate Juan Botella.


Eastern North Atlantic Blooms

This MODIS image collected on April 5, 2011 depicts dust blowing northward from Africa while phytoplankton bloom around the Iberian Peninsula.


New Zealand

Runoff from recent heavy rains and wave action along the coast have increased the turbidity of coastal waters in this April 29, 2011 MODIS image of New Zealand.


Downstream of the Mississippi Watershed

Suspended sediment and nutrients from the midwestern United States flow into the northern Gulf of Mexico via the waterways of the Mississippi River watershed. This spring the load is heavier than usual because of recent flooding along the river.

The above MODIS image was collected on May 22, 2011.


Invasion of the ctenophores

When fisheries biologists Marianna Giannoulaki and Apostolos Siapatis noticed clear, lemon-sized gelatinous blobs floating in their sampling tanks, they were concerned....


Fiji


It is unusual for completely clear skies over Fiji to coincide with the overpass of one of the MODIS sensors, but on July 21, 2011 most of the archipelago was visible as the Aqua satellite flew directly overhead.


Great Barrier Reef


This clear MODIS view of Australia's Great Barrier Reef on 9 August 2011 includes features in the Arafura Sea (1st inset) and inside the reef along the Queensland coast (2nd inset) that look like extensive blooms of the nitrogen fixing cyanobacterium, Trichodesmium.


Northwest Pacific Blooms


This view of phytoplankton blooms along the northern edge of the North Pacific Current in the vicinity of the Emporer Seamounts was collected by Aqua-MODIS on August 31, 2011.


Lake Michigan Turbidity

On October 5, 2011 Aqua-MODIS viewed highly turbid water along the southern shores of Lake Michigan. The bright swirls are most likely bottom sediments that have been resuspended by the recent storms that passed through the region.

Click on the above image for a large (12 Mbyte) version showing the entire Great Lakes region including very green water in western Lake Erie that results from recent harmful cyanobacteria blooms.

Four days later, another MODIS view of the Great Lakes shows the progression of both features.


Dust Over Baja California

Dust storms such as this one blowing across the Gulf of California and Baja on November 27, 2011 sometimes fertilize the growth of marine phytoplankton. They also can complicate the measurement of ocean color by orbiting sensors (like MODIS) that were designed, in part, with marine phytoplankton in mind.

You may click on the above Aqua MODIS image for a larger version. Still larger 7.5 megabyte and 26 megabyte versions are also available.


Thailand and Myanmar

This Aqua-MODIS view of Thailand and Myanmar was collected on December 30, 2012.


Northern Gulf of Mexico

One of the most documented dead zones on Earth is in the northern Gulf of Mexico in the summer when solar heating increases the buoyancy of surface waters thereby reducing mixing between the surface and the bottom. Phytoplankton -- powered by the same sunlight and fed by a rich nutrient broth flowing out of local rivers -- bloom, die, sink, and get remineralized by bacteria which use up all the available oxygen in the isolated bottom waters which then become dead zones.

The above view looking eastwards from Louisiana on the left towards northern Florida in the distance on the right was collected in winter when oxygenated water is more easily mixed down to the sea floor. The tell-tale tan and greenish-brown plumes from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers show that even though dead zones may not form in winter, transport of the suspended sediments that are usually accompanied by nutrients continues all year long.

You may click on the above Aqua MODIS image for a larger version. A still larger 7.3 megabyte version is also available.


Two Views from VIIRS

Four orbits of the recently launched Suomi NPP satellite provided the VIIRS instrument enough time (and longitude) to gather the pixels for this wide angle view showing Central and North America nestled between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Our group is processing ocean color data from this mission and making derived geophysical measurements available to the ocean-color community for evaluation purposes.

The above composite -- collected on January 4, 2012 -- is also available as an 8000 x 8000 pixel image.

The narrower-angle view at right -- showing the Earth as if seen from one Earth diameter above southwestern Europe -- was assembled from VIIRS data over a period of six separate orbits on February 3, 2012.
Click on the thumbnail for a larger view, or get the 12,000 by 12,000 pixel, 20 megabyte version.



VIIRS: 26 May 2012

Fifteen orbits of the recently launched Suomi NPP satellite provided the VIIRS instrument enough time (and longitude) to gather the pixels for this synthesized view of Earth showing the Arctic, Europe, and Asia.

The above composite -- collected on May 26, 2012 -- is also available as a 12,000 x 12,000 pixel (37 megabyte) image.


CDOM to the Kara Sea

A southeastward view across the Kara Sea and arctic Russia reveals dark brown water flowing from the estuaries of the Yenisei and Ob rivers. The colored dissolved organic material (CDOM) that darkens such waters may be increasing in concentration as the climate warms. The effects of CDOM upon such things as Arctic Ocean temperature and primary production are active topics of research.

The above Aqua MODIS data were collected on June 29, 2012. Click on the image for a larger view or get the full-resolution version (9.8 megabytes)


The Black Sea

The coccolithophore has been part of the Black Sea ecology for millennia. In the summer these calcite-shedding phytoplankton can color much of the Black Sea cyan, as is evident in this Aqua-MODIS image collected on July 15, 2012.

Click on the above image for a larger view or get the full-resolution version (9.0 megabytes)


The Northwest Passage

Clear skies over much of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories of Canada on 2 August 2012 revealed a Northwest Passage that was largely free of ice. Besides making ship traffic easier in the region, the opening of the passage also appears to have made it possible for both large and small organisms to negotiate the route.

Click on the above image for a larger (5.5 megabyte) view or get a still larger (12.7 megabyte) version.


Northwest Atlantic

Westerly winds carry a river of aerosol particles from North America across the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. The above view of the hazy river was collected by Aqua-MODIS on September 12, 2012.

Click on the above image for a larger (1.1 megabyte) view or get a still larger (17 megabyte) version.


In Memoriam

The international ocean color community mourns the loss of two of their founding fathers, Charlie Yentsch and Andre Morel. Not only did these two pioneers blaze a new trail by helping to establish the foundations for the science of ocean color — in particular, paving the way for ocean color from space — but they were true gentlemen in every sense of the word - sharing their incredible talents, knowledge and marvelous stories with generations of students and researchers.

One can only imagine that the two of them are sitting on-board a beautiful ship somewhere together, watching the sea change color as the light dances off the waves, discussing the ways of the world and exchanging stories over a glass of something wonderful.

They will truly be missed, and it is hard to imagine the world as ever being as colorful without them.


The Passage of Sandy

As the large Hurricane Sandy moved north along the U.S. East Coast, the waves it generated churned up sediments from the continental shelf and left turbid water in its wake. By mid day October 30, 2012, the skies over coastal Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina had cleared enough to reveal the turbidity to the orbiting VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite. Meanwhile, the remnants of the storm were battering the northeastern states.

Larger versions of the above VIIRS image with and without state borders shown are also available.


The Northwest Pacific Spring Bloom

The MODIS instrument detected the clear chlorophyll signal of the yearly spring bloom in the waters south of the Japanese island of Hokkaido on March 27, 2013. Increasing daylength and stratification of the water column combined with abundant macronutrients and micronutrients such as dissolved iron provide ideal conditions for phytoplankton to grow.


Ten Years of Chlorophyll Measurements in the Western North Atlantic

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chlorophyll colorscale

The MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite has been measuring ocean color since mid-2002. Roll your pointer over the above image of the east coast of North America to view an animation of 10 years (2003 - 2012) of MODIS-derived oceanic chlorophyll concentrations in the region.


Phytoplankton in the Sea of Marmara

Aqua-MODIS recorded faint golden-colored filamentous features in the Sea of Marmara on April 27th, 2013. Features such as these have been identified in other satellite images as possible Trichodesmium blooms. Those cyanobacteria are not known to be native to the region, but a recent report lists the species as being present as an alien in the neighboring Aegean Sea.

Note that information from the field now indicates that these are blooms of Noctiluca scintillans, a dinoflagellate.

Clicking on the above image will get you a larger view of the region including the western Black Sea with prominant plumes of sediment laden water emerging from the Danube River delta.


Blooms around Kamchatka

The volcanically active Kamchatka Peninsula separates two biologically active bodies of water this time of year. Green (and in some places slightly reddish) swirls of phytoplankton fill the surface waters of the northwest Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea in the above MODIS image collected on May 23, 2013. (Click on the above image for higher resolution.)

A broader (3.6 megabyte) view shows that similar blooms are even more widespread in the Sea of Okhotsk on the western side of the peninsula.


Phytoplankton in the Sea of Okhotsk

Differently colored waters in the Sea of Okhotsk on June 12, 2013 suggest differences in phytoplankton community structure from one location to the next. The ocean color community would eventually like to use remotely sensed data, such as are shown in the above Aqua-MODIS image, to better understand global phytoplankton diversity. (Click on the above image to see more of the region at higher resolution.)


Out of Africa

Dust has long blown across the Atlantic from Africa, but only during the past several decades of satellite observations have we begun to appreciate the vast scale of these events. Estimates of the dust transported run to hundreds of millions of tons per year, yet we still know relatively little about the effects of this dust on phytoplankton productivity, climate, and human health.

The above composite was constructed from 7 orbits of VIIRS data collected on August 1, 2013. (Roll your pointer over the image for help distinguishing the dust from the similar-looking streaks of sun glint.) The image is available at three resolutions.


Different Wavelengths
Different Views

Our group recently started archiving and distributing HICO data. The above images show how different information is contained in different band combinations of the data. Click on the image above for a more detailed view.


What Just Happened in Micronesia?

A change in the western tropical Pacific caught our eyes when the October 2013 monthly composite chlorophyll image became available. Click the image to read more.


Southeastern Atlantic Color

Different sorts of information can be derived from the ocean color data collected by orbiting radiometers. The above pseudo-color image represents chlorophyll concentration around South Africa. If one computes the reflectance of the ocean at different wavelengths measured by the radiometer, one can form a multiband composite that reveals differences in phytoplankton community structure which are not apparent just from the chlorophyll concentration.


Dark Water Off Brazil

We recently received a report that a harmful algal bloom had been sighted off of the southeastern coast of Brazil. The 19 January 2014 MODIS view of the region (above) does show a large plume of dark water that extends southward from Rio de Janeiro along the edge of the continental shelf.

More recent communication from Brazil indicates that samples of the dark water are full of the ciliate, Myrionecta rubra, (formerly known as Mesodinium rubrum) which is considered non-toxic and is known to regularly bloom in many parts of the world.

In addition to the bloom, a closer look at the full resolution MODIS image will also reveal the presence of the human species off the coast of Brazil.

Click on the image above for further details.


Andaman Sea Waves

Most satellite ocean color folks would prefer an instrument that tilted to avoid sun glint. The MODIS instruments do not tilt, so oceanographers sometimes make lemonade out of lemons and extract other information from the glint field.

The above 5-March-2014 Aqua-MODIS scene highlights the surface signatures of internal waves in the Andaman Sea. The basic physics and surface manifestations of such waves have been known for some time now, but the underlying details are still being investigated.

Click on the above image for a broader view showing more of the internal wave signatures, or get the full-resolution, 12.6 megabyte version.


South Pacific Bio-optics Cruise

Members of our field support group are cruising across the South Pacific and Southern Ocean this month collecting optical and biological data that will help us improve the ocean color measurements that we make from low Earth orbit. You can follow their blog at NASA's Earth Observatory to learn more.

Click on the above image for the complete map showing their cruise track overlaid on an Aqua-MODIS composite of remote-sensing reflectances.


Benguela Current Features

Recent MODIS data from the Benguela Current region off the coast of Namibia include linear, yellowish features such as are shown in the above image collected on April 10, 2014. If any seafarer in the area knows what these are, we would also be curious to know. Perhaps these are associated with sulfur precipitation events that have been described in this area; perhaps these are phytoplankton blooms; perhaps there is some connection with the wind-borne dust seen in other parts of the larger image.

Click on the above image for a broader view of the southwest African coast, or download the full-resolution (20 megabyte) image.

Meanwhile, nearly half a world away, you can continue to follow our field support group as they gather sea-truth data in the South Pacific.


Gulf of Alaska

Increasing solar illumination brings increased phytoplankton growth to the Gulf of Alaska every spring, and this year is no exception. The above image was collected on May 9, 2014 during a single orbit of Aqua-MODIS. The image below was collected over several orbits the week before.

Click on the above images for broader views, or download the full-resolution versions of the 9 May 2014 (15 megabytes) and 2 May 2014 (41 megabytes) images.


SST and Chlorophyll

sst off Western Australia chlorophyll concentration off Western Australia

Sea surface temperature (top panel) and chlorophyll concentration (bottom panel) are often correlated in the ocean... except when they are not. See examples of both cases in the above images of the Leeuwin Current region off of Western Australia on June 6, 2014. (Clicking on either panel will get you a larger version with a color scale.)


African Dust Heads to South America

Hemmed in by the inter-tropical convergence zone on its southern flank, a river of African dust flows across the Atlantic in late June of 2014. The above VIIRS composite shows that the dust had made it half way across the ocean by June 23. Roll your pointer over the image to see the dust reaching all the way to South America 24 hours later.

The above images are available in several sizes.
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Barents Sea Bloom Transition

Recent work suggests that diatoms predominate during May in the Barents Sea while coccolithophores bloom in August. The above MODIS scene, collected on July 10, 2014, may show those arctic waters in transition between greener diatom-dominated and milkier coccolithophore-dominated waters.

Ocean colors in the above image represent remote-sensing reflectance in the red, green, and blue portions of the spectrum. Green and blue reflectances have been scaled the same way, but the red reflectance has been scaled brighter to accentuate differences in this relatively dark portion of the spectrum. (Note that positive identification of phytoplankton species is not possible from these data alone; sea-surface sampling would be required for that.)

Click on the above image for a broader view, or get a full-resolution version (8 megabytes).


Baltic Sea Cyanobacteria

The Baltic Sea often supports massive blooms of diazotrophic cyanobacteria during the summer. The above MODIS image from July 25, 2014 shows that this year is no exception.

Click on the above image for a broader view, or get a full-resolution version (14 megabytes).


Massive Red Tide Approaching Florida

Recent reports indicate that a massive red tide event comprised primarily of Karenia brevis has been developing off the west coast of Florida. Indications are that this is the largest event since 2006 and has already been linked to reports of large fish kills. The most recent survey of Karenia brevis concentration indicates that the large offshore feature to the west, northwest of Tampa seen in the image above that was taken on Friday, 8 August 2014 by the MODIS instrument on the Aqua spacecraft is the bloom. The image below is a natural-color rendition of the bloom.

More recent satellite images have been generally cloud-covered in this region but we will continue to monitor the situation and post any updated images as they appear.


Chlorophyll as a Current Tracer

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chlorophyll colorscale

Phytoplankton, for the most part, move wherever ocean currents take them. Because of this they can sometimes be used to reveal current flows in the ocean through the chlorophyll they carry. If you move your pointer over the above Suomi-NPP-VIIRS image of chlorophyll concentrations off the northwestern coast of Australia, you will see how currents moved the phytoplankton around during the month of August, 2014. Click on the image to see an animation of a larger portion of the eastern Indian Ocean that reveals eddies within eddies in this turbulent region. (Black patches within the animation are clouds moving through the scene.)


Phytoplankton off the U.S. West Coast

This view of the northeast Pacific ocean and western North America was collected by VIIRS on October 3, 2014. It shows water colored by phytoplankton extending away from the coast.


The Turbulent Bering Sea

Large blooms of phytoplankton (likely coccolithophores) surrounded the 51-kilometer-long St. Matthew Island in the Bering Sea on October 8, 2014 when the above Aqua-MODIS image was collected. The swirls and eddies of color give some indication of the turbulent nature of these waters. The reflective blooms have been visible from orbit for a few months now.

Click on the above image to see a larger region including browner, sediment-laden waters along the coast of Alaska. A full-resolution, 10-megabyte version is also available.


Ocean Optics XXII

During the last week of October, 2014, ocean color scientists from around the world gather in Portland, Maine for the twenty-second Ocean Optics conference. The above MODIS image shows the northwest Atlantic Ocean in the Portland vicinity on September 27, 2014 -- a month before the beginning of the conference.


The Pacific Northwest

The data used to create this perspective view of the Pacific Northwest were collectd by the VIIRS instrument aboard the Suomi-NPP spacecraft on September 12, 2014.


Reprocessed VIIRS Data

We recently finished reprocessing our VIIRS data holdings — significantly enhancing the quality of our level-2 (and higher) products. If you have been getting VIIRS data from us, we hope that you will invest the time needed to begin working with the new products as soon as you are able.

The above image of the northern Gulf of Mexico was created from remote-sensing reflectance and chlorophyll measurements taken from newly reprocessed VIIRS data collected on October 15, 2014.


Springtime East of Patagonia

Connoisseurs of ocean color must take note when spring moves on toward summer over the Patagonian Shelf. Complex circulation in the region produces flamboyant color variations that bespeak a high level of biodiversity in the resident phytoplankton populations.

The above VIIRS image was collected on December 2, 2014.


Trichodesmium in Melanesia

The MODIS image above shows blooms of the nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium, Trichodesmium, to the northeast of the New Caledonian island of Lifou on December 19th, 2014. Click on the image above for more information about this particular bloom.


New Zealand

This VIIRS view of New Zealand was collected on January 9, 2015 when the phytoplankton were blooming — particularly to the east of the islands and along the Chatham Rise.

Broader versions of the above image are available in 2.7 megabyte and 8.4 megabyte sizes.


Mississippi River Plume

The Mississippi River and its distributaries modify the Gulf of Mexico more than any other river flowing into that body of water. This can be clearly seen in the above Aqua-MODIS image collected on January 27, 2015. The river brings huge quantities of suspended sediments and eutrophying nutrients to the northern Gulf from its very large watershed in the central United States.

Click on the above image for a view of most of the Gulf or get the full-resolution, 24-megabyte version.


The Patchiness of Ocean Color

The ability to capture nearly instantaneous views of large areas of ocean surface makes satellite radiometers invaluable for the study of this often patchy and dynamic environment. That same patchiness can, however, challenge developers of satellite ocean color algorithms when they compare satellite and in situ measurements with each other.

The VIIRS data used to create the above image were collected on February 7, 2015.


The English Channel and the North Sea

The waters of the English Channel and the North Sea are shallow enough that wind-driven and tidal currents often stir up bottom sediments. These suspended sediments along with populations of phytoplankton color the water various shades of tan and green in this February 17, 2015 VIIRS image.


The Yellow Sea

Remote sensing of ocean color in the Yellow Sea can be a challenge. Phytoplankton, suspended sediments, and dissolved organic matter color the water while various types of aerosols modify those colors before they are "seen" by orbiting radiometers.

The Aqua-MODIS data used to create the above image were collected on February 24, 2015. An 11-megabyte version is also available.


Arabian Sea Winter Blooms

Filamentous green swirls fill the northern Arabian Sea in February 2015. Recent research in the area has found that while winter blooms used to be dominated by diatoms, they are now largely composed of dinoflagellates -- a change that may have significant effects on the food web.

Click on the above image for a larger view or get the full-resolution, 14 megabyte version.


Spring Bloom in the North Atlantic

Phytoplankton accumulations lent their green color to the central North Atlantic Ocean just north and east of the Azores in May of 2014. The above May 17, 2014 image is part of a larger perspective view with Europe and Africa along the Eastern horizon.


Productive Benguela Current

The Benguela Current that flows along southern Africa's west coast is a region of strong upwelling during much of the year. The nutrient supply in this upwelled water supports a high level of primary production by the phytoplankton which in turn supports a rich food web at the higher trophic levels. Sometimes, however, the algal biomass accumulates faster that it can be dispersed, and then algal decomposition depletes oxygen levels to dangerously low levels. A few weeks before the above image was collected, hundreds of tons of lobster fled such an anoxic event and died on the beaches of Elands Bay, South Africa.

Download the 23-megabyte version of the above 5 March 2015 MODIS image.


The Sea of Azov and the Black Sea

The Sea of Azov (top) is relatively shallow while the Black Sea (bottom) is quite deep. This partly accounts for the difference in color of the two water bodies. Both seas have experienced varying levels of eutrophication over the past several decades which have largely been driven by elevated nutrient inputs from surrounding watersheds.

The Aqua-MODIS data used to create the above image were collected on March 10, 2015. A 9-megabyte version is also available.


Eddies in the Southern Ocean

The cloud cover over the Southern Ocean occasionally parts as it did on January 1, 2015 just west of the Drake Passage where VIIRS glimpsed the above collection of ocean-color delineated eddies which have diameters ranging from a couple of kilometers to a couple of hundred kilometers. Recent studies indicate that eddy activity has been increasing in the Southern Ocean with possible implications for climate change.

Click on the above image for a larger view. A 6-megabyte version is also available.


Spring Blooms in the Baltic

Phytoplankton bloom along the coasts of Latvia and Estonia in this 16 March 2015 Aqua/MODIS view of the Baltic Sea. The plume of Latvia's Daugava River is visible at the southern end of the Gulf of Riga.

Click on the above image for a larger view. A 14.4-megabyte version is also available.


Spring Bloom in the Bay of Biscay

The Bay of Biscay usually reaches the peak of its spring phytoplankton bloom in April, and this VIIRS image shows a bloom well underway on April 13, 2015. If trends during the past seventeen years are any indication, then we may expect the peak bloom in this region to grow still larger next year and perhaps even larger the year after that.


Why Ocean Color from Space?

Winds, tides, and density differences constantly stir the oceans while phytoplankton continually grow and die. Without orbiting radiometers we would be unable to track this variability over time and would have a much poorer understanding of ocean processes that are critical to our survival.

The composite above comprises data collected by Suomi-NPP/VIIRS on April 9, 2015. A larger (6.5 megabyte) version is also available.


Northeast Atlantic Spring Bloom

As it does every year, the spring bloom has once again returned to the North Atlantic. These blooms are arguably important events in Earth's biosphere, and yet, as stated in a recent paper on this phenomenon, "there remains little consensus as to the environmental and ecological conditions required to initiate high-latitude spring blooms."


Alaskan Phytoplankton

Spring phytoplankton communities paint eddies in the Gulf of Alaska on May the 4th, 2015 while aerosols hint at the motions of the overlying atmosphere. The above view was collected by the VIIRS instrument aboard the Suomi-NPP spacecraft.


Gulf of Maine

Historically rich fishing grounds, the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank have been so heavily harvested that they can no longer fully supply our ever increasing demand for their resources. The phytoplankton that eventually feed the fish, mollusks, and crustaceans that we catch are shown coloring the northwest Atlantic waters in the above VIIRS image from May 14, 2015.


Mid June in the North Atlantic

Phytoplankton communities and sea ice limn the turbulent flow field around Iceland in this Suomi-NPP/VIIRS scene collected on June 14, 2015.

Click on the image above to see a broader region at higher resolution.


The Bering and Chukchi Seas

Satellite ocean color measurements of the Bering and Chukchi seas are often prevented by cloud (and in winter, ice) cover, but for several days in June, 2015, the ocean was unusually free of obstruction. VIIRS collected this view on June 19/20 (Alaska/Siberia).

Click on the image above to see a broader region at higher resolution.


Barents Sea

As the Artic moves on into mid-summer, the Barents Sea is once again hosting extensive blooms of coccolithophores.

Click on the 29 July 2015 Aqua-MODIS image above to see a broader region at higher resolution, or get the full-resolution 13 megabyte version.

One day later, Landsat 8 captured a still more highly resolved view of the bloom at the bottom of the above MODIS image. (Download the full 20-megabyte Landsat 8 scene.)


Labrador Sea

Phytoplankton abundance peaks in the summer in the central Labrador Sea — depicted above in a VIIRS image collected on August 9, 2015. In addition to routine satellite and ship monitoring, a new mooring is expected to begin monitoring this dynamic region in the near future.


Norwegian Sea

Cloudfree skies on August 24, 2015 reveal a frozen moment in the ever changing distribution of phytoplankton communities in the southern end of the Norwegian Sea.


Middle Eastern Dust Cyclone

Terra-MODIS captured this view of a powerful cyclonic dust storm swirling over Iraq on September 1, 2015.

Click on the image above for a larger view of the region.


Southwest Atlantic

To the southeast of the Rio de la Plata — flanked by the grayish human population centers of Buenos Aires and Montevideo — float much larger populations of phytoplankton borne along by the currents and eddies of this dynamic region of the southwestern Atlantic Ocean.

Click on the above Aqua MODIS image collected on September 6, 2015 to download a larger version of the image.


North of the Gulf Stream

Late summer phytoplankton blooms line the coast in the western Atlantic in this 15 September 2015 VIIRS view of the northeastern United States. The undulating Gulf Stream that leaves the coast near Cape Hatteras is visible in the ocean color signal beneath scattered cloud cover.


North Atlantic Spring Bloom

Every year during the boreal spring the phytoplankton biomass in the North Atlantic Ocean increases in bloom events. Much of this activity is hidden from ocean color sensors by cloud cover, but sometimes large areas go cloud free as happened on April 26, 2013 when the VIIRS sensor captured this scene of the bloom.

Click on the above scene for a broader view with a hemispherical context image.


New Zealand

The patchiness exhibited by phytoplankton communities around New Zealand in the above image provides the raison d'être for satellite remote sensing of ocean color; a whole fleet of ships, drifters, gliders, and buoys could not capture this variability before it morphed into a new pattern.

Click on the above VIIRS image collected on September 30, 2015 to download a larger version of the image.


New Zealand

The patchiness exhibited by phytoplankton communities around New Zealand in the above image provides the raison d'être for satellite remote sensing of ocean color; a whole fleet of ships, drifters, gliders, and buoys could not capture this variability before it morphed into a new pattern.

Click on the above VIIRS image collected on October 7, 2015 to download a larger version of the image.


After the Storms

Damaging heavy rains fell on South Carolina in the southeastern United States at the beginning of October 2015. Much of that water had, by mid October, flowed into the Atlantic Ocean bringing with it heavy loads of sediment, nutrients, and dissolved organic material. The above VIIRS image shows the runoff as it interacts with ocean currents on October 15, 2015. Click on it to get a larger version.


NAAMES

The R/V Atlantis leaves Woods Hole on November 6, 2015 to participate in the North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study. Since ocean color plays a prominent role in this research, it is hoped that the usually cloudy November skies over the North Atlantic will open up occasionally to allow satellite ocean color instruments to extend the reach of the ship-borne instruments to the ocean beyond the ship's horizon.

The above VIIRS image was collected on September 23, 2015, and it shows the line along which Atlantis plans to make her primary stations. Click on the image for a larger, broader view.


Low-chlorophyll Features

The dark streaks in the image above show up in VIIRS and MODIS data as low-chlorophyll features. Since this region is right at the edge of the Southern Ocean, one could speculate that the features might have something to do with icebergs that are too small to be detected by these particular sensors.

The above image was collected by VIIRS on November 7, 2015.


Springtime in the South Atlantic

The springtime phytoplankton communities shown above were spotted between the Falkland Islands to the west and South Georgia Island to the east by the VIIRS instrument aboard the Suomi-NPP satellite on November 16, 2015. Click on the image for a broader view of the region.


Kerguelen Islands

Iron rich waters around the Kerguelen Islands support spring phytoplankton blooms which are often hidden from satellite view by cloud cover. November 21, 2015 was a sunny day in the region, however, as can be seen in the above VIIRS image.


No, it's not ocean color, but...

... much of the dust that can be seen streaming southward in the above Landsat 8 image will fall into the Arabian Sea where it will contribute to the fertilization of the phytoplankton communities that color the water there. If you click on the above image you will see that the dust pictured there is only a very small part of the total mass headed for the Indian Ocean on December 10, 2015.

Larger versions of the December 10, 2015 Landsat and MODIS images are here.


Phytoplankton Gyrations in Remote Locations

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CDOM Enters the Chesapeake

Colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) shades the waters of Pocomoke Sound a deep brown in this Landsat 8 image of the middle Chesapeake Bay and Delmarva Peninsula. The color comes from decaying vegetation that falls into the Pocomoke River as it drains from the remnants of the Great Cypress Swamp in Delaware toward its mouth at the bay.

CDOM is basically nature's tea. The photograph at lower left shows CDOM laden water from a Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge retention pond draining toward the Chesapeake (just north of this Landsat image).


Microscopic Particles in the Air and In the Water

Clouds of dust can be seen drifting in the air currents over the Arabian Sea while clouds of phytoplankton drift in the ocean currents below. Each set of microscopic particles — through selective absorption and scattering of solar photons — makes its own modifications to the reflected colors that are detected by orbiting spectrophotometers.

The above VIIRS image was collected on December 21, 2015. Click on it to get a larger version.

The Earthdata group has published an article about recent wintertime Noctiluca blooms in the Arabian Sea.


Oxygen Factories

On January 13, 2016, eleven thousand kilometers due south of the U.S. city of Chicago (a.k.a. a long way from wherever you are), vast numbers of phytoplankton were consuming carbon dioxide and giving off the waste gas that we humans need to survive.

You may click on the above image to get a larger version, or you may view a smaller version with a map of North America's Great Lakes region overlaid to get a sense of the size of this particular patch of the southeastern Pacific Ocean.


Midwest Soils to Gulf of Mexico

Flooding along the Mississippi River watershed at the beginning of 2016 lifted vast quantities of soil from the U.S. Midwest and sent it flowing southward toward the Gulf of Mexico. By January 18th, those brown, sediment-laden waters could be seen emerging from the river's distributaries at Atchafalaya Bay, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Mississippi River Delta itself.

Click on the above image for a larger version of that Aqua MODIS scene, or download a higher resolution Landsat 8 scene of the Mississippi River Delta collected a few hours earlier that same day.


Eastern United States Blizzard 2016

A clear cloud free moment, just as the blizzard has ended on Sunday January 24 2016, reveals the extent and clear boundary of the footprint of snow left behind on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region of the United States. The left (Western half) of the image was taken at 11:50am EST by the NASA MODIS Terra instrument, the right (Eastern half) of the image was taken at 1:30pm EST by the NASA MODIS Aqua instrument. The images from these two satellite observations have been stitched together to give the above composite image. Minor changes can be observed along the joining line up the middle of the image due to cloud movement during the 100 minutes between the satellite observations, as well as due to the differing sun angles.

This image was generated entirely using SeaDAS 7.3. Click on the above image for a larger, high resolution version of this scene.


Winter Blooms in the Arabian Sea

Phytoplankton communities were blooming in the Arabian Sea on February 3, 2016 as can be seen in this Aqua-MODIS scene. Outbreaks of Noctiluca scintillans in recent years are a disturbing symptom of a changing ecosystem in the northern Indian Ocean and are likely responsible for many of the water features in this image.


The California Current System

This 8 February 2016 VIIRS composite reveals the complex distribution of phytoplankton in one of Earth's eastern boundary upwelling systems — the California Current. Recent work suggests that our warming climate my be increasing the intensity of upwelling in such regions with possible repercussions for the species that comprise those ecosystems.

Click on the above image to download a larger version.


The Turbulent North Atlantic

The relatively laminar flow of the Gulf Stream slices across what is otherwise a fairly turbulent western North Atlantic Ocean in the above VIIRS image collected on March 9, 2016. If you click on the above image you will see (around clouds and sun glint) that the turbulence — made visible by the pigmented phytoplankton it entrains — extends across the whole North American Basin from Anegada to Bermuda to Cape Cod.


Patagonian Sea

The Patagonian Sea is "one of the most biologically productive regions in the global ocean". Recent studies show chlorophyll concentrations have increased there over the past seventeen years.

The above VIIRS image was collected on March 12, 2016.


Springtime on the Grand Banks

The phytoplankton on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland are starting to bloom. The second NAAMES cruise will be traversing these waters in May of 2016.

Click on the above March 23, 2016 VIIRS image to get a larger version, or download a version with chlorophyll concentration contours overlaid.


Pacific Northwest

Recent studies place the ecosystems of the northeastern Pacific at increasing risk from ocean acidification and hypoxia as we humans continue to warm the climate by burning fossil fuels.

The data used to construct the above MODIS/VIIRS composite were collected on March 30, 2016.


Fram Strait

Cloud streets form beyond the edge of the sea ice in Fram Strait in this Aqua-MODIS image collected on April 19, 2016.


Chlorophyll Concentrations over The Grand Banks

This 26 April 2016 VIIRS image shows gradients in the chlorophyll concentration across the region that will be visited by the R/V Atlantis during her second NAAMES cruise which begins on May 11, 2016.

Click on the above image to see the legend that explains the colored chlorophyll contours.


The North Sea

The above 9 May 2016 view of the North Sea shows some variation in water color that might be related to differences in the phytoplankton communities that live in that body of water. Measuring these differences is difficult enough from sea level, never mind from orbit. With future ocean color missions such as PACE, NASA hopes to make the task a bit more tractable.


Gulf of Alaska

In the summertime, meltwater from Alaska's glaciers washes into the Gulf of Alaska carrying a suspended load of rock flour with it. The glacial scrapings supply the micro-nutrient, iron, to the gulf. Mesoscale eddies help distribute the iron to the offshore waters where it promotes the growth of phytoplankton, particularly diatoms.


Labrador Sea

Eddies such as those shown above may be transporting melt water from the Greenland ice sheet into the central Labrador Sea. In this way they may play some part in controlling the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.

The above VIIRS image was collected on June 23, 2016. Click on it to download a larger version.


Sun Glint

While sun glint is usually undesirable to a remote-sensing scientist studying ocean color, it, nonetheless, has its uses under the right conditions.

The above Aqua/MODIS scene was collected on July 12, 2016.


Greenland

It's the smaller of Earth's two remaining ice sheets, but it still stores a lot of water. Melting of this ice sheet is increasing as climate warms. If it melted completely it could increase sea level by roughly 6 meters.

Uneven mixing of Greenland's meltwater into the surrounding ocean likely contributes to phytoplankton diversity which sometimes manifests itself as variations in ocean color in images such as this one.

Click on the above MODIS composite for a larger version of the image.


Australian Dust Export

These dust plumes — driven by wind from Western Australia out over the Indian Ocean — were imaged by Suomi-NPP/VIIRS on August 1, 2016.


The Bering and Chukchi Seas

This view of the Bering and Chukchi seas was captured by VIIRS on August 30, 2016.


Northwest Atlantic Ocean

Phytoplankton color the waters off of Atlantic Canada and New England on September 13, 2016.


Great Australian Bight

Phytoplankton color the waters in the Great Australian Bight to the south of Western and South Australia on September 27, 2016 in this VIIRS image.


Gulf Stream Eddies and the Gulf of Maine

As autumn color moves southward across New England, phytoplankton color limns the North Atlantic eddy field between the Gulf Stream and the Gulf of Maine.

This Aqua-MODIS scene was collected on October 7, 2016. Click on the above image for a larger version.


Mar Argentino Phytoplankton

Diverse springtime phytoplankton communities ride the turbulent currents of the Argentine Sea. The above Aqua/MODIS image was collected on October 24, 2016. Click for a larger version.


Southern Indian Ocean

"The southern Indian Ocean is characterized by a confluence of diverse water masses, each with distinct physical characteristics, nutrient conditions, plankton communities and production rates."

Northwest Arabian Sea

The Arabian Sea phytoplankton community has begun to change in recent years as the mixotrophic dinoflagellate, Noctiluca scintilans, displaces other phytoplankton species in the region.


Tasman Sea

The Tasman Sea is painted in "ocean tones" by the phytoplankton in this Aqua-MODIS view off the southeastern corner of Australia collected on November 17th, 2016.


Southern Central Chilean Coast

The Pacific Ocean around Concepción, Chile receives dissolved inorganic carbon from the Biobío River and from coastal upwelling.


Aerosols Around the United Kingdom

Dust from North Africa joined smoke from local fires to cloud the air around the United Kingdom in April 2003. Other views of the same event are available from the SeaWiFS radiometer.


Southern Ocean Phytoplankton Blooms

Clouds and ice part over the portion of the Southern Ocean that is due south of eastern Africa and just north of Lützow-Holm Bay, Antarctica to reveal thick blooms of phytoplankton photosynthesizing in the sun.

This Aqua-MODIS image was collected on December 19, 2016. Click on the image above to retrieve a larger version.


Wind-Driven Turbidity

Winds associated with a strong cold front that moved across southern Florida on January 7, 2017 whipped up the waves in Florida Bay causing widespread resuspension of bottom sediments. The resulting increase in water turbidity is visible in an Aqua/MODIS scene collected the following day. Higher turbidity is also evident over the Bahama Banks and in Cuba's Golfo de Batabanó. A Terra/MODIS image collected on January 2, 2017 shows lower turbidity before the passage of the front.


The Strait of Gibraltar

At its simplest level, water flows eastward into the Mediterranean Sea from the North Atlantic Ocean at the surface while Mediterranean water flows westward into the Atlantic at depth. Investigate further, however, and the story becomes more complex.

The above image was created from Aqua/MODIS and Suomi-NPP/VIIRS data collected on March 8, 2017. Phytoplankton in the surface waters highlight some of the turbulent flow patterns in the region. Click on the image to get a larger version.


Benguela Upwelling

The Benguela Current flows along the southwestern African coast. Upwelling of nutrient-rich, deeper water there supports high productivity in the phytoplankton and higher trophic levels.

This Suomi-NPP/VIIRS view of the upwelling zone was collected on April 2, 2017. Note that the color change across a straight line in the top half of the image is not a processing artifact; it results from land use differences across the Angola/Namibia border. Click on the image for a larger version.


Gulf of Alaska

The spring bloom in the Gulf of Alaska was well underway on April 12, 2017 when the Aqua/MODIS and Suomi-NPP/VIIRS data from which the above image was created were collected.


Sea of Okhotsk

The Sea of Okhotsk supports high levels of primary production in the springtime. Click on the above Aqua/MODIS and Suomi-NPP/VIIRS composite to get a larger version of the April 25, 2017 image.


Eastern North Atlantic Spring Bloom

The eastern North Atlantic Ocean blooms around the Iberian peninsula in this VIIRS scene collected on April 7, 2017. The international ocean-color community gathered in Lisbon in May of 2017 to further humanity's understanding of our global ocean.


The Black Sea

Late spring brings light-scattering coccolithophore blooms to the Black Sea. Those calcite-precipitating phytoplankton distinguish the Black Sea from its darker-colored neighboring seas to the south and east.

This Aqua/MODIS composite was collected over a few orbits on May 29, 2017. Click on the image above for a larger version.


Norwegian Sea

High phytoplankton productivity helps make today's Norwegian Sea a carbon dioxide sink. Analyses of boron isotopes in fossil foraminifera tests from that part of the world hint that the sea may have occasionally become a CO2 source during the last 135 thousand years.

The above Aqua/MODIS and Suomi-NPP/VIIRS composite image was generated from data collected on June 12, 2017. Click on it to get a larger version.


The Great Lakes

This Aqua/MODIS view of the Great Lakes was collected over two orbits on April 6, 2012. Click on the image for a larger view.


Hudson Bay

An outsized geographical feature of northern Canada, Hudson Bay loses its ice cover in the summertime. This mostly cloud-free view of the bay and its connections to the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans shows that its southwestern portion still contained ice on June 29, 2017.

Click on the above Aqua/MODIS image to get a larger version.


Chilean Phytoplankton Bloom

Phytoplankton bloom off the coast of Chile in this Suomi-NPP/VIIRS image collected on October 5, 2013. Click on the image for a larger version.


The Difficulty of Ocean Color Remote Sensing

This VIIRS composite image collected over two orbits on July 22, 2017 illustrates some of the challenges faced by the ocean-color remote-sensing scientist, namely, clouds, aerosols, striping artifacts from imperfect sensor calibration, and even a bit of sun glint this far north.


Caspian Sea

Numerous algal blooms are visible in this Aqua/MODIS image of the Caspian Sea collected on August 3, 2017. Click on the image to get a larger version.


East China Sea

Both Ulva and Sargassum blooms were reported in the East China Sea at the time that this 18 May 2017 Aqua/MODIS image was collected. Click on the image for a larger version.


Harvey Runoff

Runoff from the flooded Texas coast is seen entering the Gulf of Mexico in this Terra/MODIS scene collected on 31 August, 2017 — just after Tropical Storm Harvey moved off to the northeast.


The Benguela Upwelling Ecosystem

Phytoplankton thrive in the nutrient-replete waters of Africa's Benguela upwelling ecosystem — supporting a rich panoply of marine life from snails to whales. The upwelling that drives this productivity appears to be changing in response to climate variability.

The above Aqua/MODIS image was collected on September 2, 2017. Click on it to get a larger version.


Irma and Jose

Tropical Storm Irma and Hurricane Jose dominate this view of the western North Atlantic Ocean and southeastern North America.

The above Suomi-NPP/VIIRS composite was collected over three successive orbits on September 11, 2017. Click on it to get a larger version.


Fall Colors Off the West Coast

On October 4, 2017 the Aqua/MODIS sensor saw some oceanic fall color that is less often noticed than the corresponding land-based colors of deciduous forests. The offshore colors in the above view of western North America are from sunlight reflected by water and phytoplankton.


Gulf of Oman & Arabian Sea

This Aqua/MODIS image of phytoplankton blooms off the coast of Oman was collected on October 17, 2017. Click the above image for a larger version.


Photosynthetic Pigments by Land and Sea

Autumn has once again come to eastern North America and, on land, chlorophyll begins to cede its dominance to other accessory pigments in the photosynthetic apparatus thereby revealing their yellow and orange tones. Meanwhile, in the ocean and lakes, phytoplankton pigments highlight different water masses and current systems.

The above Aqua/MODIS image was collected on October 20, 2017. Click on it to get a larger version.


Southeastern United States Coast

The day after Tropical Storm Philippe moved away from Florida, coastal waters from Atchafalaya Bay to the Chesapeake were under clear skies giving the Aqua/MODIS instrument the above view. Click on the above image for a larger version of the 30 October 2017 image.


Patagonian Sea

Although the ultimate fate of the carbon is not yet clearly known, much of the Patagonian Sea serves as a carbon dioxide sink during the yearly spring bloom largely because of the photosynthetic activity of the phytoplankton living there.

The above Aqua/MODIS view of the region was collected on November 6, 2017. Click on the image to get a larger version.


Glacial Dust Over Gulf of Alaska

Alaska's glaciers grind rock into fine powder. Suspend that powder in meltwater and you get the bright aquamarine colored water seen along the coast; loft it on the wind and you get tan plumes of dust that hide the water below. (The largest dust plume in the above image is carrying glacial dust southward from the dry portions of the Copper River valley just east of Prince William Sound.) Both methods of transport bring iron to the Gulf of Alaska in a seasonal and spatially variable way where it supports the growth of phytoplankton.

The above Aqua/MODIS image was collected on November 15, 2017. Click on it for a larger version.


Springtime around Tasmania

High pressure over the Tasman Sea on November 21, 2017 clears the cloud cover and provides ample sunlight for the phytoplankton blooming there. The weather system coupled with a warming climate is also sending the region toward a record-setting heat wave. The surface waters in this region have warmed excessively before and are warming at nearly four times the global rate with serious impacts to local ecosystems.

Click on the above Aqua/MODIS image to get a larger version.


First Light Imagery from VIIRS on NOAA20

We of NASA's Ocean Biology Processing Group would like to congratulate our friends at NOAA on the successful beginning of operations of their latest VIIRS sensor.

The data that went into the above image were collected on December 13, 2017 — just after the instrument's doors were opened. Click on it for a much larger version.


Winter Storm Grayson

On January 4, 2018, winter storm, Grayson, was bringing cold winds, snow, and storm-surge flooding to the U.S. East Coast.

The data for the above Suomi-NPP/VIIRS composite were collected over four consecutive orbits of the sensor. Click on the above image to retrieve a larger version.


Eddies in the Eastern South Atlantic

Phytoplankton align with the streamlines of cyclonic and anticyclonic eddies in the eastern South Atlantic Ocean. The Suomi-NPP/VIIRS data that comprise the above image were collected on January 11, 2018. Click on the above image to download a larger one.


Arabian Sea in Bloom

The northeast monsoonal winds carry haze and dust from the Asian continent across the northern Indian Ocean in winter. This makes remote sensing of ocean color there difficult. On January 14, 2018, the Aqua/MODIS radiometer was nevertheless able to detect the massive phytoplankton blooms that are once again filling much of the surface water of the Arabian Sea.

Click on the above image for a much larger version.


Phytoplankton in the Alboran Sea

On January 17, 2018, Aqua/MODIS captured this view of the phytoplankton circulating in the Alboran Sea. Click on the above image for a larger version.


Agulhas & Benguela

The Agulhas Current sluices oligotrophic water from the tropics southward along Africa's east coast while upwelling along the northward flowing Benguela Current supports high phytoplankton concentrations off the west coast. Ocean-color scientists now seek to use satellite data not just for the estimation of chlorophyll concentration, but also to begin to tease out different phytoplankton functional types and different size classes.

Click on the above Suomi-NPP/VIIRS image collected on February 5, 2018 to get a larger version.


Gulf of Aden

This Aqua/MODIS scene of the Gulf of Aden on the western end of the Arabian Sea, shows populations of phytoplankton carried along by the turbulent surface currents that are common in this region. This particular scene was collected on February 12, 2018, but the Gulf supports phytoplankton blooms during other seasons of the year as well.

Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Northeast Pacific during the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting

Much of the northeastern Pacific Ocean was cloudy on February 13, 2018 when Suomi-NPP/VIIRS collected these data, but Portland, Oregon, the site of the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting was cloud free on this second full day of the conference.

Click on the above image to get a larger view.


Western South Atlantic

On February 14, 2018, Suomi-NPP/VIIRS captured this view of phytoplankton in the western South Atlantic Ocean. Click the image for a larger view.


Clouds Over the North Atlantic

This composite of data collected during six orbits of the Suomi-NPP/VIIRS sensor shows cloud cover over the North Atlantic Ocean on February 19, 2018. You can click on the above image for a larger version or download an even larger 237-megapixel version.


French Whitecaps

Easterly winds blowing at around 45 kilometers per hour were generating whitecaps on the sea surface off of Pointe du Raz, France when Landsat 8/OLI captured this image on February 26, 2018.


Lake Skadar

Lake Skadar is shared by Montenegro and Albania. This Sentinel-2A/MSI image was collected on April 22, 2017.


Lake Apopka

Lake Apopka, Florida was imaged by Sentinel-2A/MSI on November 20, 2016.


Baltic Sea Cyanobacteria

This cyanobacteria bloom in the Baltic Sea was captured by Landsat 8/OLI on August 11, 2015.


East Siberian Sea

Landsat 8/OLI captured this view of sea ice in the East Siberian Sea on June 5, 2016.


Mackenzie River Outflow

The above image shows part of the Mackenzie River delta and the river's turbid waters flowing into the Beaufort Sea. This Landsat-8/OLI scene was collected on July 19, 2017.


Gulf of Oman Blooms

A dense bloom of phytoplankton — likely the dinoflagellate mixotroph, Noctiluca scintillans — is visible in this Landsat 8/OLI image collected on December 22, 2017.

Click on the above image to get a larger version that shows the bloom's position and size relative to Oman's al Dimaniyyat Islands in the lower left corner.


Phytoplankton off the Mawson Coast

Landsat 8's OLI instrument captured this view of a dense phytoplankton bloom off of Antarctica's Mawson Coast on February 9, 2018. Sea ice and icebergs are also visible in this summertime, Southern-Ocean scene. Blue melt ponds

are scattered here and there along the otherwise icy Antarctic coast.

Northern Arabian Sea Blooms

This Landsat 8 / OLI image of phytoplankton blooms in the northern Arabian Sea was collected on January 2, 2018.


Baltic Sea Cyanobacteria

These cyanobacteria slicks covered the surface of the Baltic Sea west of Estonia on July 15, 2017. The linear slices through the slicks were created by passing boats. These data were collected by the OLI sensor on Landsat 8.


The Bering Strait

The Bering Strait joins the Bering (south) and Chukchi (north) seas and is the only direct connection between the Pacific and Arctic oceans. This Landsat-8/OLI image from June 17, 2015 shows distinct water masses flowing through the strait.


Ice Gouges in the Caspian Sea

These lines on the floor of the Caspian Sea in the Tyuleniy Archipelago were gouged out by ice. The scene was recorded by Landsat 8 / OLI on April 6, 2016. Below is a comparison of the April 6 data with a Landsat 8 scene collected two and a half months earlier. The ice chunks that caused some of the gouges are clearly visible.

comparison of ice-covered and ice-free Tyuleniy Archipelago
A large version of the January 17, 2016 Landsat 8 scene is also available.


Algal Slicks off the Omani Coast

These algal slicks off the coast of Oman just to the southeast of Muscat reflect what appears to be the new normal in the Arabian Sea. These green slicks are accumulations of the mixotrophic dinoflagellate, Noctiluca scintillans — a protist that has been changing the ecology of the Arabian Sea in recent years.

The above Landsat 8 image was collected on March 5, 2018. Click on it to get a larger version.


Lazio, Italy

This view of Lazio, Italy by the Tyrrhenian Sea was captured by Landsat 8 on October 26, 2017. Click on the image to get a 15-meter-resolution version.


Peering through the Haze: Arabian Sea

Satellite-borne ocean color sensors measure the amount of sunlight reflected from the Earth. Over the ocean, most of that reflected light comes from the atmosphere. An ocean-color scientist must take steps to separate the small part of the satellite measurement that is actually reflected from just below the water's surface. The sequence of images below crudely illustrates some of the steps in this process.

The view of the Arabian Sea was collected by the VIIRS instrument aboard the Suomi-NPP spacecraft on January 15, 2018. Click any of the images to get higher-reolution versions without the annotations.





Florida/Georgia Runoff from Hurricane Irma

Plumes of dark, fresh water flowed onto the surface of the Atlantic Ocean after the passage of Hurricane Irma in September of 2017. The dark color of the river plumes comes from colored dissolved organic matter leached from decaying plant material in the watersheds of these Florida and Georgia rivers.

This Landsat 8 image was collected on September 14, 2017. Click on it to get a higher-resolution version.


Gulf of Oman

These bands of green in the Gulf of Oman are most likely caused by the Dinoflagellate known as Noctiluca scintillans.

Click on the above Landsat 8 image collected on January 27, 2016 to get a larger version with a locator map.


Laptev Sea Sediment Swirls

At the end of summer snow and ice are absent revealing swirls of suspended sediment in the Arctic Ocean and multihued lakes on land.

Click on the above Landsat 8 image collected on September 2, 2016 to get a larger version with a locator map.


Bohai Bay

Tidal current scour produces plumes of suspended sediment downstream of anchored ships and platforms just off the Chinese coast in Bohai Bay.

This Landsat 8 image was collected on August 26, 2016. Click the above image to get a larger version.


Chinese Aquaculture

Chinese aquaculture in the Yellow Sea off the coast of Jiangsu Province, China creates interesting patterns in this Landsat 8 image collected on March 8, 2017.

Click the above image to get a larger version.


Caspian Sea Phytoplankton Bloom

Landsat 8 imaged this phytoplankton bloom in the Caspian Sea just to the east of Dagestan Republic, Russia on August 6, 2017. Click on the image to get a larger version.


Les Îles de la Madeleine

Rising sea level in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is gradually eroding the Magdalen Islands. This Landsat 8 view from March 26, 2018 shows the snow-covered islands surrounded by some suspended sediment and the blooming phytoplankton of spring. Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Early Spring in the Northwest Atlantic

The above composite of data collected by Aqua/MODIS over the course of three orbits on March 27, 2018 shows that, although eastern Canada is still covered in snow, the spring bloom is well under way in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean.

Click on the above image to see a larger version.


Ebro Delta Plume

Landsat 8 captured this view of a long plume of brighter water in the Mediterranean Sea associated with Spain's Ebro Delta. This image was collected on November 12, 2017. Click on it for a larger version.


South Island Runoff into the Tasman Sea

On September 9 (New Zealand Time) of 2016, Landsat 8 collected this view of the west coast of New Zealand's South Island where suspended sediments from river runoff brighten the nearshore Tasman Sea waters. Click on the image for a larger version.


North Central Mediterranean Sea

The above composite of data collected by Aqua/MODIS over the course of three orbits on April 8, 2018 provides a relatively clear view of eastern Europe and the central Mediterranean Sea. Click on the above image for a larger view.


Western North Atlantic

Phytoplankton outline turbulent surface currents in the western North Atlantic Ocean in this Suomi-NPP/VIIRS scene collected in the early afternoon of April 18, 2018. Click on the image to get a larger version.


Cape Cod Sun Glint

The ocean's surface is very big, yet wind, waves, currents, and organic films divide it up into small microregions having different properties. Sun glint in the above Landsat 8 image of the Atlantic Ocean around Cape Cod, Massachusetts highlights some of this surface heterogeneity.

Click on the above April 23, 2018 image to view a larger version. Below is a smaller part of the full image.


Phytoplankton Around the Kamchatka Peninsula

The northwestern Pacific Ocean is stirred by many eddies around the Kamchatka Peninsula. The twists and turns of the moving water are revealed by the phytoplankton that live there. The above Aqua/MODIS image was collected on May 8, 2018 during the spring bloom. Click on it to get a larger version.

The Kamchatka Peninsula apparently also happens to lie at one end of the longest straight path over Earth's ocean.


North Sea Blooms

The North Sea is a busy place with shipping, fishing, petroleum exploration, and wind energy harvesting all having their impacts in this relatively shallow arm of the North Atlantic Ocean. Amidst all this human activity, phytoplankton also live and die and show themselves in a flashy way during the spring bloom.

The above Landsat 8 image of an eddy in the North Sea was collected on May 14, 2018. Click on it to get a larger version with a locator map.


Fujairah Offshore Anchorage

Oblong colorful shapes off the east coast of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman mark the locations of large ships in the Fujairah offshore anchorage area. Sunglint patterns on the water reveal the presence of internal waves, surface waves, ship wakes, and oily slicks that are likely generated by the ships anchoring in the area.

This Landsat 8 image was collected on May 22, 2018. Click on it to download a larger version.


Fall Blooms off the Queensland Coast

Brownish slicks off the coast of Queensland, Australia near Townsville suggest the possible presence of colonies of the nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium, Trichodesmium. This Landsat 8 image was collected on May 31, 2018. Click the above image for a larger version.


Celtic Phytoplankton

North and west of Ireland and Scotland, the clouds opened upon a blooming North Atlantic Ocean on May 30, 2018 when Aqua/MODIS flew by and captured the above image.


Suspended Sediment in the Bering Sea

Just to the northeast of this image, the Yukon River empties into the Bering Sea and brings a large quantity of suspended sediment with it. The tides and wind driven currents of this sub-arctic sea then redestribute the sediments up and down the Alaskan coastline forming ever changing patterns in the turbid waters.

The above image was collected on June 13, 2018 by Landsat 8. Click it to get a larger version.


Bering Sea Green Belt

The waters of the Bering Sea are highly productive in the springtime when increasing sunlight and ample nutrients fuel explosive growth of phytoplankton. Over the years of the satellite-ocean-color era, researchers have noted that a green belt of productive water often forms along the edge of the continental shelf. The phytoplankton in this green belt may be benefitting from extra dissolved iron flowing in from the outer shelf sediments.

The orange line on the above VIIRS image shows the rough location of the shelf break as the 200-meter depth contour. These data were collected on June 13, 2018 (June 14 on the Russian side).


Southern Chukchi Sea

Landsat 8 recorded this turbulent ocean color field just northeast of the Bering Strait in the Chukchi Sea on June 18, 2018. Click the image to get a larger version overlaid on a map.


Cabo Dos Bahías

This Landsat 8 scene shows the ocean off of Cabo Dos Bahías, Argentina well stirred by turbulent surface currents. The scene shows the state of the ocean on June 3, 2018. Click the above image for a larger version.


Lagoa dos Patos

Suspended sediment, phytoplankton, submerged aquatic vegetation, and colored dissolved organic matter all contribute to the many colors observed in the above Landsat 8 image of Patos Lagoon in southern Brazil. The data used to make the image were collected on May 24, 2018.


Different Seas — Different Ecosystems

This Suomi-NPP/VIIRS composite shows different color patterns in the seas surrounding northwestern Europe. The North Sea and northeastern Atlantic Ocean exhibit a variety of colors with the most striking turquoise patches likely caused by blooms of calcite-shedding coccolithophores. The fresher surface waters of the Baltic Sea reflect a sinuous pattern — more uniform in color — that hints at the summer surface slicks of cyanobacteria that are becoming more common as the local climate changes. To the south, the Mediterranean Sea remains bluer — its oligotrophic waters less colored by phytoplankton except where rivers such as the Ebro, Rhône, and the Po flow in, bringing extra nutrients that fuel algal growth.

Click on the above 27 June 2018 composite to see the described features in more detail.


Benguela Ecosystem

Nutrients upwelled from below and dust drifting down from above result in fertile waters along the South Atlantic African coastline where the Benguela Current flows northward. Add ample amounts of sunlight — as in the above Aqua/MODIS image from 5 July 2018 — and you get a lot of phytoplankton growth supporting the rest of this highly productive ecosystem which remains the focus of ongoing research.


Lake Okeechobee Algal Bloom

Phosphorus and nitrogen from Florida farms and towns wash into Lake Okeechobee and fuel large blooms of algae such as the one shown in this Sentinel-2B/MSI image collected on July 5, 2018.


Western Europe

On June 30, 2018 The Suomi-NPP/VIIRS instrument captured this view of western Europe over the course of three orbits. Dust from northern Africa was spreading across the Mediterranean Sea while summer phytoplankton blooms purfled the European coastline in places.


Obskaya Guba

This Landsat 8 image collected on 14 July 2018 shows the waters of Obskaya Guba and Tazovskaya Guba in arctic Russia colored by suspended sediments, CDOM, and phytoplankton.


Cyanobacteria in the Baltic Sea

This year's cyanobacteria bloom in the Baltic is once again affecting a large portion of that sea as can be seen in this view from Landsat 8 collected on July 16, 2018.

Click on the above image to get a larger version. A very large 6352-by-32980-pixel image (75 megabytes, 30-meter resolution) is also available.


Adriatic Sea

The Ocean Optics XXIV conference will take place in Dubrovnik, Croatia along the Adriatic coast during the second week of October, 2018. The above image of the Adriatic Sea was collected by Aqua/MODIS on July 20, 2018. Click it to get a larger version.


Waiting for the Curtain

Photosynthesizing, carbon-pumping protists and bacteria paint the wide North Pacific with their signature pigments and light-scattering characteristics. They are small, but they are many -- numerous enough to be sensed by platforms orbiting hundreds of kilometers overhead..., but not on this day.

Moorings, drifters, research vessels, and ships of opportunity collect local data that can be extended to the wider basin using satellite ocean color data..., but not on this day.

On this day we must be content to let the meteorologists mine the data for meaning while we sit back to enjoy the endlessly variable patterns in that white curtain behind which the phytoplankton play.

cloud patterns

The above composite comprises data collected by the MODIS instrument during nine orbits of the Aqua spacecraft on July 25 and 26, 2018. Click on the top image for a much larger version (51 megabytes).


Hawke Bay, New Zealand

This view of phytoplankton and suspended sediment in Hawke Bay, New Zealand was collected on August 2, 2018 by Landsat 8. Click on the image to get a larger version.


In Port for EXPORTS

This Sentinel-2A view of Seattle, Washington includes the research vessels, Sally Ride and Roger Revelle, which were docked at Smith Cove on August 6, 2018 in preparation for the first cruise of the EXPORTS field campaign. The R/V Sally Ride is 72 meters long, and the R/V Roger Revelle is 83 meters long, but at the Sentinel-2 resolution they each shrink to a small rectangle of pixels.

Click on the above image to see more of the region.


Laptev Sea

Without its reflective cover of ice, the Laptev Sea was absorbing lots of solar photons on August 8, 2018. Click on the above Aqua/MODIS image for a larger view.


Pacific Northwest

Landsat 8 captured this view of the Pacific Northwest on August 9, 2018. Click on the image to retrieve a larger version.


Baltic Cyanobacteria

Clouds and contrails throw shadows onto the Baltic Sea between Latvia and Gotland, Sweden as ships cut dark slices through the cyanobacterial slicks that cover the water. This view was collected on August 3, 2018 by the Landsat 8 / OLI sensor. Click the above image for a higher resolution view.


The Danube Delta

Suspended sediment and enhanced phytoplankton productivity color the waters of the Black Sea where the Danube River empties into it after flowing thousands of kilometers across Europe. This Landsat 8 view was captured on August 13, 2018. Click on the above image for a larger view.


Gulf of Alaska

Suspended sediment and late summer phytoplankton blooms color the Gulf of Alaska in this composite of MODIS and VIIRS data collected on August 28, 2018. Click the above image to get a larger version.


Capricorn Channel Blooms

Australia's Capricorn Channel is known to host blooms of the nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria, Trichodesmium, from time to time. This Landsat 8 scene collected on August 30, 2018 shows widespread yellowish-brown linear features that are most probably colonies of these bacteria gathered into slicks at the sea surface. The color and texture of such surface slicks has led mariners to give them the name, sea sawdust.

Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Lakes Erie and Ontario

Satellite radiometers measure the apparent optical properties of water bodies like the North American lakes, Erie and Ontario. For example, in this September 5, 2018 view from Aqua/MODIS, Lake Erie (lower left) appears more green in the west and bluer in the east while Lake Ontario (upper right) looks bluer in the west and more turquoise in the east. These appearances result from the inherent optical properties of the water in the lakes; in other words, water molecules and the living and non-living particles suspended in them absorb and scatter the different wavelengths of sunlight in characteristic ways. The job of the ocean-color (or lake-color) scientist is to figure out which molecules and particles are absorbing and scattering the incoming photons so that she can learn something about the ecology (or geology or fluid mechanics) of the region.


Southern Kamchatka

Landsat 8 captured this view of phytoplankton blooming around the southern Kamchatka Peninsula and northern Kuril Islands on September 14, 2018. Click the image above for a larger version.


Capricorn Channel Blooms

Slicks of Trichodesmium gather into windrows off the Queensland, Australia coast inside the southern portion of the Great Barrier Reef. Landsat 8, which collected the above view on September 15, 2018, also viewed the same area sixteen days ago when the blooms were already widespread but distributed differently.

A click on the above image will get you a larger version having the same projection as the August 30 image.


Turbidity in the Sea of Azov

The Sea of Azov is shallow, and sea-floor sediments are easily mixed into the water column by passing storms. The suspended sediments and phytoplankton help delineate the flow field in the region. To the south, the deeper Black Sea shows much less suspended material.

This Landsat 8 image was collected on September 18, 2018. Click on it to get a larger version.


North Carolina After Florence

Eastern North Carolina appears to be bleeding as runoff high in colored dissolved organic matter and suspended sediments flows into the Atlantic to mix with the already murky ocean water that was roiled by the passage of Hurricane Florence a few days earlier.

This Landsat 8 scene was collected on September 19, 2018. Click the image above to download a much larger version.


Bohai Bay

One would be hard pressed to find a place in or around Bohai Bay in China that has not been impacted by human presence. The signatures of that presence are visible throughout the above Landsat 8 image collected on September 24, 2018. Click on the image to view more of the region.


Carolina CDOM

A broad band of dark CDOM-laden water hugs the coast of North and South Carolina all the way from Cape Fear to Cape Romain on September 26, 2018. The dark water has run out of the Carolinas after Hurricane Florence dumped heavy rain on those states.

The above image was collected by Landsat 8. Click on it to get a larger version. A broader view collected by Aqua/MODIS later the same day is also available.


Carolina Coastal Runoff

The coastal ocean along the central eastern United States is more colorful than usual after the passage of Hurrican Florence. This Aqua/MODIS image was collected on the afternoon of September 26, 2018. Click on it for a larger version.

Earlier that morning Landsat 8 captured part of the region at higher resolution.


Gulf of Alaska and Station Papa

The skies over Ocean Station Papa are cloudy more often than not, and the North Pacific there is often anything but. On September 30, 2018, however — while a storm churned to the west — Station Papa and much of the Gulf of Alaska basked in sunshine. The VIIRS instrument aboard the Suomi-NPP spacecraft took advantage of the clear skies to image phytoplankton communities swirling in the turbulent ocean.

Station Papa has recently been the site of the first stage of the EXPORTS field campaign.

Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Central California Coast

This Landsat 8 view of the central California coast shows smoke from the Branscombe Fire burning near San Francisco Bay. The image was collected on October 7, 2018 at 11:45 Pacific Daylight Time. Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Tropical Cyclones

Tropical cyclones: Sergio, Michael, and Leslie span this 11,470-kilometer-high perspective view of North, Central, and northern South America which was assembled from 7 orbits' worth of low-resolution Suomi-NPP/VIIRS browse images.


Unusual Chlorophyll Pattern Off New Zealand

The spring bloom is underway in the South Pacific Ocean around New Zealand. Patchiness is common in phytoplankton distributions, but the small, high-chlorophyll patches to the east of the North Island struck this writer as noteworthy because they appear different from the distributions I am used to seeing. I wonder what sort of plankton makes those patches?

Move your pointer over the above Suomi-NPP/VIIRS image to just display relative chlorophyll concentration in gray scale (the brighter the pixels, the higher the chlorophyll). Click on the image to download a larger version of the enhanced-color image.


Hurricane Michael Colors the Gulf

The northeastern Gulf of Mexico shows the aftereffects of the passage of Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018. The waters along the Florida coast are colored by storm runoff, sediment resuspension, and enhanced phytoplankton growth in this Aqua/MODIS image collected on October 13, 2018. Click on the image to get a slightly larger version.


Tasman Sea Chlorophyll

The interaction of the East Australian Current with the bathymetry of the Tasman Sea results in a turbulent flow field that can be "seen" from orbit when phytoplankton are blooming in that part of the southwestern Pacific Ocean.

The above image was collected on October 17, 2018 by the VIIRS instrument that is part of the relatively new JPSS1 (NOAA-20) spacecraft. It shows relative chlorophyll concentrations in the Tasman Sea. Click on it to get a larger version.


Patagonian Phytoplankton

It's rare that most of Patagonia is as cloud free as it was on October 19, 2018 when Suomi-NPP/VIIRS collected this image. Springtime phytoplankton communities can be seen on both the Pacific and Atlantic side of this southernmost region of South America. Click on the image to get a larger version.


Arabian Sea

This Aqua MODIS image of the Arabian Sea was collected on October 22, 2018. Click on it to get a larger version.


Typhoon Trami

The above two Suomi-NPP/VIIRS images show Category 2 Typhoon Trami as it moved toward southern Japan on September 28 (top) and 29 (bottom), 2018. Click on either to get a larger version of the corresponding image.


Blooms around the Falkland (a.k.a. Malvinas) Islands

It's mid spring, and phytoplankton bloom in the Argentine Sea around the Falkland Islands. Meanwhile one can still see abundant sea ice flanking the Antarctic peninsula in the larger image linked above.


California Smoke Over Pacific

Large quantities of smoke from several destructive fires in California obscure the Pacific Ocean to the southwest of that state in the above 11 November 2018 Suomi-NPP/VIIRS composite. Fueled by drought conditions and strong winds, such fires could become more common as our planet continues to warm in response to our heavy dependence on greenhouse-gas-producing fossil fuels.

Click on the above image to get a much larger (28.5 megabyte) version.


Spring Blooms around Southeastern Australia

Some fraction of the carbon fixed by phytoplankton blooming around Tasmania will eventually sink deep enough in the water column that it is unlikely to re-enter the atmosphere for a long time. Warming temperatures in the region may be reducing this carbon sequestration by increasing microbial respiration of organic carbon as it drifts downward through the water column.

Click on the above Suomi-NPP/VIIRS composite collected on November 18, 2018 to get a larger version.


Ribbon-like Feature off Santa Barbara County

The troubled offshore oil platform, Holly, and its related infrastructure are in the process of being decommissioned. It is possible that the ribbon-like feature that extends to the southwest of the platform and its pipeline in the above Landsat 8 image collected on November 26, 2018 could be an oil slick on the ocean's surface. The broader swirls of greenish water are colored by phytoplankton and suspended sediments.

Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Arabian Sea

This Aqua MODIS image of the Arabian Sea was collected on November 23, 2018. Click on it to get a larger version.


Western South Atlantic

From Mar del Plata, Argentina south to the Drake Passage and east past South Georgia Island, the western South Atlantic Ocean reveals its spring phytoplankton communities to the orbiting Aqua/MODIS instrument on November 23, 2018.

Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Yukon River Delta

Loaded with suspended sediment gathered from its huge watershed, the Yukon River flows out through its many distributaries into Norton Sound and the Bering Sea. The above image was collected on July 21, 2017 by the Operational Land Imager aboard Landsat 8. Click on it to get a much larger (44 megabyte) version.


Canary Upwelling System

One of Earth's four major eastern boundary upwelling systems, the Canary Upwelling System exports phytoplankton-fixed carbon hundreds of kilometers into the North Atlantic Ocean via Ekman transport and mesoscale filaments and eddies that are generated when the North Atlantic's eastern boundary current flows past the complex coastal topography of Northwest Africa.

The above image comprises data collected during two orbits of the Suomi-NPP/VIIRS instrument on December 10, 2018. Click on it to get a larger version.


The Drake Passage

This view of the region around the Drake Passage was collected over five orbits by the Suomi-NPP/VIIRS instrument on December 3, 2018. Click on it to get a larger version.


Algal Slicks in the Persian Gulf

This view of the southeastern end of the Persian Gulf was collected by Landsat 8 on December 14, 2018. Large algal slicks are visible through the thin cloud cover. These have been confirmed to be the mixotrophic dinoflagellate, Noctiluca scintillans, by local observers. This organism has been dominating the wintertime ecosystem of the adjacent Arabian Sea for over a decade now. Click on the above image to get a much larger version.


Albemarle Sound

Albemarle Sound is a large shallow estuary in northeastern North Carolina. Its nearly-fresh waters are colored by the suspended sediment, CDOM (colored dissolved organic matter), and chlorophyll they contain.

The above Landsat 8 image was collected on January 25, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version.


Winter Blooms in the Black Sea

It's the middle of winter and snow covers the mountains north and south of the eastern Black Sea. Nonetheless, phytoplankton appear to be blooming in the surface waters of that deep landlocked sea. The brightest feature in the above image has the appearance of a coccolithophore bloom. That calcite-shedding protist is more commonly found blooming in this region during the summertime.

The above image was collected by Landsat 8 on February 4, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version.


Summer Phytoplankton Communities around Patagonia

It's unusual for almost all of Patagonia and the surrounding ocean to be free of cloud cover, but so it was on February 4, 2019 when the Aqua spacecraft passed three times over the region and collected the MODIS data that comprise the above image. Both the Pacific Ocean off of Chile and the Atlantic Ocean off of Argentina support thriving phytoplankton communities stirred around by the turbulent surface currents.

Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Burdekin River Floodwaters

Recent flooding of Queensland, Australia's Burdekin River has sent a large plume of turbid water into Upstart Bay and beyond. When this Landsat 8 image was collected on February 11, 2019, the plume had reached all the way to Old Reef at the inside edge of the Great Barrier Reef — some sixty kilometers from the river's mouth.

Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Noctiluca scintillans in the Gulf of Oman

Blooms of the mixotrophic dinoflagellate, Noctiluca scintillans, have been reported along the coast of Oman. This image collected on February 15, 2019 by the European Space Agency's Sentinel-2B spacecraft shows that the slick-forming blooms extend well offshore into the Gulf of Oman. Ship wakes can be seen as darker linear paths that cut through the surface accumulations.

Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Australasia

VIIRS data from nine orbits of the Suomi-NPP spacecraft and eight orbits of the JPSS1 (NOAA-20) spacecraft were assembled into this view of Australasia and the surrounding Pacific, Indian, and Southern oceans. Using data from both spacecraft, which fly in the same orbital plane but separated by fifty minutes, makes it possible to eliminate much of the sun glint that contaminates images made from either sensor by itself since the Earth has rotated and the resulting swath and glint pattern have moved fifty minutes farther west between the passage of JPSS1 and Suomi-NPP.

On the day that these data were collected (February 12, 2019 east of the dateline and February 13, 2019 west of it), Australia was exporting massive quantities of smoke, dust, and suspended sediments to the surrounding atmosphere and ocean. The smoke and dust can be seen mingling with the clouds as they stream southeastward from the continent; the suspended sediments (along with colored dissolved organic material) color the offshore waters of Queensland — particularly near the mouths of the Burdekin and Flinders rivers.

Click on the above image for a much larger (14400-by-14400-pixel) version.


Tasman Sea Eddy Pair

This counter-rotating eddy pair (cyclonic on the left, anticyclonic on the right) was imaged by the Suomi-NPP/VIIRS instrument in the Tasman Sea between Tasmania and New Zealand on March 1st, 2019.


Guanabara Bay

This view of Rio de Janeiro, Guanabara Bay, and surroundings was collected by Landsat 8 on June 29, 2018. Click on the image above for a larger view.


Crozet Islands

The Crozet Islands are remote and surrounded by some of the roughest seas on the planet. Those seas are home to a recently discovered new type of killer whale, and they support what was reported to be the world's largest king penguin colony before it suffered a mysterious, massive decline in population.

When the clouds occasionally clear, we can derive some information about the phytoplankton that support these remote inhabitants of Earth from ocean color sensors such as MODIS on the Aqua spacecraft. The above image was collected on March 6, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version.


U.S. Gulf Coast

This view of the Mississippi, Alabama, and (partial) Louisiana coastline showing coastal runoff into the Gulf of Mexico was collected by Landsat 8 on January 10, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version.


Northeastern Pacific Ocean

This view of the northeastern Pacific Ocean in the vicinity of Vancouver Island was collected by Aqua/MODIS on March 18, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version.


SeaHawk has spread its wings and opened its eyes.

Click on the above image to read more.


Submesoscale Variability in and around the Bay of Biscay

As the North Atlantic spring bloom kicks into high gear, the multiplying phytoplankton color the water as they are moved around by its turbulent mesoscale and submesoscale currents. The above JPSS1/(NOAA 20)/VIIRS image was collected on March 28, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version.


Bay of Biscay

The above Landsat 8 view of the Bay of Biscay was collected on March 28, 2019 — just two and a half hours before JPSS1/VIIRS passed over the same region. Click on the image to get a larger version.


Lake St. Clair

Lake Erie has had a renewed eutrophication problem in recent years driven by nutrient input (primarily phosphorus). One of the main pathways taken by the nutrients on their way to western Lake Erie is through Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River. The above Sentinel-2A image shows suspended sediment patterns in Lake St. Clair on March 26, 2019. Click on it to get a much larger version that also includes portions of Lake Huron and Lake Erie.


Lake Khanka

Lake Khanka straddles the Sino-Russian border in the Far East about 160 kilometers north of Vladivostok. It is a very shallow lake prone to wind-driven sediment resuspension. The above image was collected by Landsat 8 on April 12, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version.


Gulf of Bothnia

Landsat 8 collected the above view of phytoplankton blooming in the southern Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland on April 14, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version.


Northwest Atlantic Ocean

The Gulf Stream flows away from North America under cloud cover in this VIIRS composite collected by two different satellites (Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20) on May 7, 2019. Just northwest of the Gulf Stream where the water is cooler, the cloud cover disappears revealing many eddies painted by the rapidly multiplying phytoplankton they contain. Still farther north — just shy of the horizon in this composite — other photosynthesizing protists turn the water green off western Greenland.

Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Benguela Upwelling Ecosystem

This May 10, 2019 Aqua/MODIS image exhibits patterns driven by the same physics as the patterns found in the Benguela upwelling a year earlier. Recent measurements in part of the region indicate that the ocean here is a source of the potent greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide.

Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Northwest Arabian Sea

The above Suomi-NPP/VIIRS image of the northwestern Arabian Sea was collected on May 3, 2019. Around the same time, the dinoflagellate, Noctiluca scintillans, was reported all along the Indian coast (beyond the right edge of this image), and large accumulations of jellyfish (known to feed on Noctiluca) were observed along the coast of Oman, so it is probable that the blooms shown here are also — at least, in part — made up of Noctiluca.

Click on the above image to get a slightly larger version.


Western Lake Superior

This Sentinel 2A image of western Lake Superior was collected on May 7, 2019. Click on it to get a much larger (113 megabyte) version.


Western Bering Sea

Clouds cleared over the western Bering Sea at the end of May 2019 to reveal phytoplankton assemblages stirred by ocean currents. Variations in species composition, depth distribution, and even the physiological state of the phytoplankton all contribute to subtle changes in water color as measured by the orbiting radiometer.

Larger versions of the Aqua/MODIS images displayed above are available for May 28, May 29, and May 30 of 2019.


Davis Strait and Western Greenland

This view of phytoplankton blooms at the northeastern end of Davis Strait off the coast of Greenland was collected by Landsat 8 on May 28, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version that includes a locator map.


Ilhabela

This Landsat 8 view of Brazil's Ilhabela (beautiful island) archipelago and the surrounding suspended sediment, chlorophyll, and CDOM (colored disssolved organic matter) patterns was collected on June 7, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version.


North Atlantic Spring Bloom

This view of Iceland and the North Atlantic Ocean to its southwest shows the spring phytoplankton bloom near its peak. The above image was collected by Aqua/MODIS on June 12, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version.


Kolyma River Mouth

This Landsat 8 scene shows the Kolyma River delivering its load of suspended sediments and colored dissolved organic matter to the Arctic Ocean which remained ice covered just north of the river's mouth on June 16, 2019 when the image was collected.


Afro-Eurasia

This VIIRS composite shows a portion of Afro-Eurasia on July 2, 2019. Of the water bodies that are visible, the Black Sea (near the center) stands out because of its bright color. During the summer, the Black Sea often hosts large blooms of coccolithophores, and the little calcite plates that those phytoplankton produce are the most likely cause of the aquamarine hues that you see in this image.

The above image is a composite of data from 9 orbits of NOAA 20 collected over a span of 14 hours on July 2, 2019. Data from four orbits of Suomi-NPP collected on the same day were used to replace high-glint portions of the NOAA-20 data. Click on the above image to get a much larger (65 megabytes, 15,000 by 15,000 pixels) version.


The Yenisei

The Yenisei River exports large quantities of sediment and organic carbon to the Arctic Ocean. The above Lansat 8 image was collected on July 17, 2019. It shows the waters mixing where the Yenisei estuary widens out into the Kara Sea by the ice-flanked Sibiryakov Island. Click on the above image for a broader view of the region.


Blooming Baltic

In what appears to be the new summertime normal, a large portion of the Baltic Sea is once again choked by thick, slick-forming cyanobacteria blooms. This view was collected by Landsat 8 on July 19, 2019. Click on the above image to get a much larger (59.3 megabyte) image covering a larger portion of the Baltic.


The Ben Franklin - Grumman/Piccard PX-15 Submersible

50th Anniversary of the Gulf Stream Drift Mission

July 14, 1969 - August 14, 1969

Timing is everything. In the summer of 1969, two missions set out on voyages of exploration and discovery. Both represented the ultimate challenge of technology and the human quest for knowledge. One would blast off from Florida so that two men could leave their footprints on the Sea of Tranquility while the other would plunge into the very core of that great ocean current, the Gulf Stream.

At 8:56 P.M. (EDT) July 14, 1969, Grumman Aerospace Corporation's research submarine Ben Franklin slipped beneath the surface of the Atlantic off the coast of Palm Beach, Florida carrying a crew of six comprised of engineers, oceanographers and a former Navy captain. In addition, NASA sends along one crew member whose job it was to evaluate the use of the Ben Franklin as a space station analogue.

The Ben Franklin's mission was to investigate the secrets of the Gulf Stream as it drifted northward at depths of 600-2,000 feet; to learn the effects on humans of a long-duration, closed-environment stressful voyage; to demonstrate the engineering-operational concepts of longterm submersible operation; and to conduct other scientific oceanographic studies.

This longest privately-sponsored undersea experiment of its kind ended more than 30-days and 1,444 nautical miles later, when the Franklin and its crew surfaced some 300 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, at 7:58 A.M. August 14, 1969.

NASA eventually publishes a five volume report on the Franklin's mission which has provided critical information which will be used to plan subsequent space habitats like Skylab, the Shuttle, and ultimately the International Space Station.

To begin your journey along with the brave crew of the Ben Franklin on their voyage of discovery, click on the icon of the submarine below.


Capricorn Channel

This is the season for Trichodesmium blooms along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. This Landsat 8 image collected on August 17, 2019 shows long, linear, yellowish features in the Capricorn Channel and along the coastline that are most likely slicks of those nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria. Click on the above image for a much larger version of the surrounding region. You may also view the corresponding Landsat 8 view from September 2, 2019.


Southwest Pacific Phytoplankton

One thinks of the waters of the Coral Sea in the southwestern Pacific Ocean as being relatively clear. These waters are home to the corals of New Caledonia and Australia's Great Barrier Reef, for example, and tropical corals require clear water (among other things) to remain healthy. Nevertheless, phytoplankton are present in the water column, and these VIIRS data (from the NOAA-20 and Suomi-NPP satellites) have been enhanced to show their presence as they are stirred around by the turbulent flow field in the region.

While one cannot identify which types of phytoplankton are shown in the different areas of this image, it is likely that some of the brighter features just inside and south of the Great Barrier Reef are blooms of a nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium called Trichodesmium.

The data for this image were collected on August 19, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version.


Greenland Loses Mass. Phytoplankton Bloom.

Excessive heat drove accelerated melting across Greenland during the summer of 2019. The above Aqua/MODIS composite shows melt ponds and grayish patches that indicate bare ice and wet snow along the southwest coast — results of the warming. Offshore, plumes of turquoise melt water flow into the Davis Strait and mingle with the blooming phytoplankton there.

The data comprising the above image were collected on August 29, 2019. Click on the image to get a larger version. You may also view a Landsat 8 image collected the same day that shows a higher resolution view of part of the region.


Greenland is Melting

This Landsat 8 view of southwestern Greenland was collected on August 29, 2019. It shows meltwater loaded with glacial sediments flowing into the Davis Strait. Click on the above image to get a larger version of the scene. You may also view an Aqua/MODIS scene collected the same day that shows most of Greenland and gives some context for the above image.


Capricorn Channel

This is the season for Trichodesmium blooms along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. This Landsat 8 image collected on September 2, 2019 shows long, linear, yellowish features in the Capricorn Channel and along the coastline that are most likely slicks of those nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria. Click on the above image for a much larger version of the surrounding region. You may also view the corresponding Landsat 8 view from August 17, 2019.


Northern Caspian Sea

Landsat 8 captured this view of the northern Caspian Sea on September 6, 2019. The island group stretching across the bottom of the above image is the Tyuleniy Archipelago and the scratch marks between the islands are ice gouges. Click on the above image to get a much larger portion of the Landsat swath.


Hurricane Dorian Sediment Transport

When Hurricane Dorian passed over the Bahamas and along the southeastern United States coastline, its waves resuspended large quantities of sea-floor sediment which give the ocean a milky, aquamarine appearance in the above composite of VIIRS data collected on September 7, 2019. The browner hues closer to the U.S. shore come from runoff generated by the heavy rainfall of the hurricane.

Click on the above image to download a larger version. Two orbits of the Suomi-NPP spacecraft and three orbits of the NOAA-20 spacecraft provided the VIIRS data used in the larger image.


Beaufort Sea Swirls

Sediment and nutrients and colored dissolved organic matter from the Mackenzie River (out of the image farther to the east) mix with the waters of the Beaufort Sea just north of Canada's Yukon Territory. Phytoplankton lend their green hues to the swirling blue and brown waters.

This Landsat 8 scene was collected on September 9, 2019. Click on it to get a larger version.


The Bay of Fundy

Extending northeastward from the Gulf of Maine, the Bay of Fundy has a length and shape that amplifies its tidal ranges to some of the largest seen on Planet Earth. Much of the turbidity seen in the above Landsat 8 image is a result of the huge volumes of water that rush into and out of the bay every day. The image was collected on September 19, 2019. Click on it to get a much larger (66 megabyte) version.


Northwestern Europe

The Atlantic coast of Europe was hazy but still clear enough to spot some late-summer phytoplankton in Aqua/MODIS data collected over a few orbits on September 20, 2019. Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Central California Coastal Blooms

Landsat 8 captured this view of phytoplankton blooming along the central California coast on September 24, 2019. The region has been subjected to troubling, unusual conditions in recent years.

Click on the above view of San Francisco to get a larger version that also shows blooms in Monterey Bay, or view a broader region as imaged by Aqua/MODIS a few hours after the above image was collected.


Central California Coastal Blooms

Aqua/MODIS collected this view of algal blooms along the central California coast on September 24, 2019. Click on the above image to get a larger version.

A few hours earlier Landsat 8 captured a more highly resolved image of a portion of the blooms.


Solway Firth

The incoming tide stirs up sea-floor sediments in Solway Firth (between Scotland and England) on the morning of October 2nd, 2019. Individual sediment plumes can be seen streaming from the turbine towers of the Robin Rigg offshore wind farm. Darker, CDOM-laden river waters flow into the firth forming sometimes abrupt color changes where they meet the Irish Sea waters. Lines of foam and other detritus can be seen in the image where the water masses meet.

The above image was collected by Landsat 8. Click on it to get a larger version with a locator map.


Indian Ocean Spring

Were it not for satellite ocean color sensors and periodic breaks in cloud cover over the southwestern Indian Ocean, we humans would have little idea of the complex dance of the photosynthesizing phytoplankton that is constantly playing out on that remote stage. This springtime view was collected by Suomi-NPP/VIIRS on October 11, 2019. Click on it to get a broader view of the region.


Eddies in the Strait of Hormuz

The above view of phytoplankton-highlighted eddies in the Strait of Hormuz was collected by Landsat 8 on October 16, 2019. Musandam, Oman is on the left (west) and Iran is on the right (east). Click on the image to get a much larger (42 megabyte) version that includes part of the Gulf of Oman. Suomi-NPP/VIIRS collected a broader view of the region a few hours later.


Gulf of Oman

This view of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman was collected by Suomi-NPP/VIIRS on 16 October 2019. Click on it to get a larger version. A higher-resolution Landsat 8 view of the northwestern Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz was collected just under three hours earlier the same day.


Gulf of Oman

An algal bloom along the coast of Oman near Muscat can be seen in the above Landsat 8 image which was collected on October 9, 2019. Click on it to get a much larger (45 megabyte) version that extends across the Gulf of Oman to the Iranian coast.


Australian Dust

Rivers of dust and smoke were flowing out of Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea toward the eastern Indian Ocean on October 21, 2019. The above composite image was constructed from several orbits of the VIIRS sensors aboard the NOAA-20 and Suomi-NPP satellites. Click on it to get a larger version.


Gulf of California

Separated from the eastern North Pacific Ocean by Mexico's Baja Peninsula, the Gulf of California shows some of its algal colors in this Aqua/MODIS view collected on October 23, 2019. The phytoplankton that grow here support (directly or indirectly) a rich diversity of marine life including the vaquita which lives at the northernmost end of the gulf but is nearing extinction.

Click on the above image to get a larger version.


Between Queensland and the Reef

Between Australia's Queensland coast and the Great Barrier Reef the ocean reflects sunlight back to space according to what is in or on or under the water. The 27 October 2019 Landsat 8 image above and the much larger one it links to show patterns of sediment, sun-glint, and phytoplankton moved by wind, waves, and tide around the offshore islands. Telltale yellowish streaks suggest the presence of nitrogen-fixing Trichodesmium slicks floating at the ocean's surface. Massive shallow carbonate platforms built by tiny coral polyps shine through the relatively clear waters overlying the reefs just beyond the portion of the image displayed above.


Tasman Sea

The orbiting Aqua/MODIS instrument found the above phytoplankton-brightened cyclonic eddy swirling in the Tasman Sea on the first day of November 2019. Some of the haze in the overlying atmosphere comes from fires burning in New South Wales, Australia. Click on the above image to get a larger version that includes a portion of southeastern Australia.