PostHeaderIcon The Eddy and the Plankton

Eddy off South Africa

I have to share. NASA released a couple of somewhat mind-blowing photos earlier this month. This is a 150-km-wide vortex off the coast of South Africa. You can see it because it is full of plankton.

The Eddy

There are currents in the ocean that are as big as the ocean itself (look up the North Pacific Gyre if you don’t believe me), so I shouldn’t be surprised to see a little whirlpool that’s a bit larger than Connecticut. It’s also the size of the Puget Sound area – defined as Olympia to Bellingham, Seattle to Snoqualmie Pass.

But, it looks like something out of science fiction.

The Satellite

This image is from NASA’s Terra satellite, and is a natural-color image (in case you were wondering). You have probably seen images from Terra that were put together using the same “near-real-time”  technology before–many of the satellite images of wildfires are from Terra or another of NASA’s Earth Observing System satellites.

The Plankton

Eddies like this one can stir up the ocean, bringing warmer water into colder places, and kicking up nutrients from deeper in the sea. Like yeast, when you provide the right environment you’ll get a “bloom” happening. As you know if you’ve ever tried to make bread, the key is warm, well-fed organisms. A bloom is a visible increase in the amount of microscopic stuff in water. In the case of yeast the bloom is from byproducts of the process of living (i.e. yeast “poop”), but for plankton, this bloom is more likely reproduction – millions of new “baby” plankton.

Want More?

NASA’s Earth Observatory

NASA’s Visible Earth

~ A l i c e !

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