The phytoplankton are blooming again in the North Atlantic. These iridescent swirls—captured by NASA's Terra satellite on May 22, 2010—are arcing across hundreds of miles of ocean between Ireland and the Bay of Biscay.
Phytoplankton need nutrients to reproduce, and blooms are often tied to events that bring nutrients to the ocean surface, such as dust plumes.
Volcanic ash can also contribute needed nutrients. The 2008 eruption of the Kasotochi Volcano in the Aleutian Islands generated a massive phytoplankton bloom in the Northeast Pacific. Iron-rich ash falling on nutrient-poor waters created conditions for phytoplankton to thrive.
This year's North Atlantic bloom may be fueled in part by the eruptions from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull Volcano.
Thanks to the Earth Observatory.