Beautiful haze

ChathamIslands.jpg

I’m a sucker for pictures from space, and this morning’s offering from NASA’s Earth Observatory site is a stunning view of the Chatham Islands, snapped by NASA’s Aqua satellite last Saturday (click on the picture to see the full size image). The turquoise clouds in the sea around the islands are a bloom of coccolithophores, a kind of phytoplankton that plays a significant role in the climate system. They have tiny skeletons made of carbonate, and sequester carbon as they die and their skeletons fall to the ocean floor, but they also affect planetary albedo (by making oceans more reflective), and give off dimethyl sulfide, an important source of particles to seed cloud formation. More here, and here.

I’d be very surprised if this picture doesn’t show up in the newspapers tomorrow, because a) it’s beautiful, and b) NASA doesn’t charge for the use of its images.

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