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Tiny plants called phytoplankton grow in the sunlit waters of the ocean's surface. Like all plants, phytoplankton contain chlorophyll, a pigment that transforms sunlight into energy the plant can use. This same pigment gives phytoplankton their greenish color.
The Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS) instrument aboard the Seastar satellite collected ocean data for more than a decade.
Turbulent storms churn the ocean in winter, adding nutrients to sunlit waters near the surface. Each spring this gives rise to massive blooms of phytoplankton. These microscopic plants harvest vital energy from sunlight through photosynthesis.
Explore using units for calculations with Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). As can be seen through a prism, many different wavelengths make up the spectrum of sunlight. When sunlight shines on objects, certain wavelengths are absorbed and other wavelengths are reflected.
If you want to understand how interconnected our planet is—how patterns and events in one place can affect life half a world away—study El Niño.
Energy from the Sun is the driver of many Earth System processes. This energy flows into the Atmosphere and heats this system up It also heats up the Hydrosphere and the land surface of the Geosphere, and fuels many processes in the Biosphere.
This investigation is part of the NASA: Mission Geography Module "What are the causes and consequences of climate change?" that guides students through explorations in climatic variability and evidence for global climate change.