Phytoplankton off the West Coast of Africa

Phytoplankton off the West Coast of Africa

Just off the coast of West Africa, persistent northeasterly trade winds often churn up deep ocean water. When the nutrients in these deep waters reach the ocean’s surface, they often give rise to large blooms of phytoplankton. This image of the Mauritanian coast shows swirls of phytoplankton fed by the upwelling of nutrient-rich water. The scene was acquired by the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) aboard the European Space Agency’s ENVISAT. MERIS will monitor changes in phytoplankton across Earth's oceans and seas, both for the purpose of managing fisheries and conducting global change research.

NASA scientists will use data from this European instrument in the Sensor Intercomparison and Merger for Biological and Interdisciplinary Oceanic Studies (SIMBIOS) program. The mission of SIMBIOS is to construct a consistent long-term dataset of ocean color (phytoplankton abundance) measurements made by multiple satellite instruments, including the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) and the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS).

For more information about MERIS and ENVISAT, visit the ENVISAT home page.

Images & Animations


File Dimensions

  • 540x405
  • JPEG
  • 2342x1791
  • JPEG 293 KB

Note: Often times, due to the size, browsers have a difficult time opening and displaying images. If you experiece an error when clicking on an image link, please try directly downloading the image (using a right click, save as method) to view it locally.


  • Visualization Date:

    April 16, 2002
  • Sensor(s):

    Envisat - MERIS
NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration