Plankton Paradise

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Masses of phytoplankton color the water between the east coast of South America and the Falkland Islands

Masses of phytoplankton color the water between the east coast of South America and the Falkland Islands. Photo: NASA

Grab the Crayolas: To color summer in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll need more than blue gray and vivid violet. Think green, and lots of it. As this satellite image of the South American coast shows, warm southern waters are a haven for phytoplankton. The tiny marine plants grow like mad during long, warm summer days. The pine green (or are they mountain meadow?) ribbons of plant life you see here color the water between the east coast of South America and the Falkland Islands. The darker, blackish areas show the thickest concentrations of phytoplankton, where the plants have absorbed so much sunlight for food that only a small amount of light is reflected away. The brightest areas are probably coccolithophores — other plants with calcium shells that reflect more light.