SANDY BAY, Australia, March 8 (UPI) -- A giant algae bloom off the coast of Antarctica is so large and so colorful it can easily be seen from space, Australian scientists report.
The Australian Antarctic Division has released a dramatic satellite photo of the bloom off the eastern coast of the continent, LiveScience.com reported Thursday.
The bloom, existing since the middle of February, is remarkable, researchers said.
"We know that algal blooms are a natural occurrence down south -- it's just a part of the Southern Ocean," marine glaciologist Jan Lieser of the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center said.
"But I've never seen one on this scale before. It's been going on for about 15 days now, so it's maybe about two-thirds or three-fourths of the way through the cycle."
The bloom, measuring about 124 miles east to west and 62 miles north to south, was imaged by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument aboard NASA's Earth-orbiting Terra satellite.
Algae blooms are triggered when a combination of sunlight and nutrients create fertile conditions.
In the Southern Ocean, researchers said, iron is the main nutrient, so when iron concentrations are high enough, algae blooms follow.