Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC
A puzzle-like layer of marine stratocumulus clouds overlays the Southern Ocean off of Southern Australia’s coast in this true-color Aqua MODIS image from December 6, 2003. The clouds partially obscure Kangaroo Island, which is separated from the mainland by the Investigator Strait (to the north) and the Backstairs Passage (to the east). Just off the eastern edge of the clouds, a blue cloud of what is probably phytoplankton floats in the waters off of Younghusband Peninsula (the bright tan strip of land) and Coorong National Park. Other phytoplankton blooms float in the waters of the Gulf of St. Vincent (northeast of Kangaroo Island) and Spencer Gulf (between York Peninsula and the mainland).
Phytoplankton are tiny marine organisms that, much like their land-based plant relatives, use sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into food. For more information on the role of phytoplankton in the climate and the many different types, please visit the Earth Observatory.
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.