Ocean 'bloom' photographed from space

Jan. 17, 2012 at 4:52 PM
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PARIS, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- A European Earth-observing satellite has captured a dramatic image of a huge algae bloom in the South Atlantic Ocean, scientists said.

A bright blue figure-8 of micro-organisms known as phytoplankton was photographed by the European Space Agency's Envisat satellite about 360 miles east of the Falkland Islands in December, SPACE.com reported Tuesday.

Oceanic algal blooms are common in the Southern Hemisphere's spring and summer as phytoplankton feed on minerals upwelling from deeper waters to the ocean surface, scientists said.

Some blooms, dubbed "red tides," can turn toxic and cause poisoning of fish and other marine animals, they said.

Phytoplankton is important for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and producing oxygen in the world's oceans and is monitored by scientists concerned about the impacts of climate change.

The Envisat satellite, launched in 2002, carries instruments to monitor the planet's land, oceans, atmosphere and ice caps.

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