These Satellite Pics of Baltic Algal Blooms Are Beautiful and Terrifying

A widefield version of the picture. Image: Copernicus Sentinel data (2015)/ESA
Spaceflight has enabled humans to travel to exciting new worlds, but it also lets us experience our home planet from an entirely fresh perspective. What may seem like local anomalies can be revealed to be a sprawling global events when observed from outer space.

By Becky Ferreira|MOTHERBOARD

Take, for example, this newly released image from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2A satellite, which captures an enormous algal bloom in stunning detail.

The image is so sharp that you can make out a boat heading straight through the eye of this algal storm in the central Baltic Sea.

As beautiful as this flowering of life is to witness from space, its effect on the surrounding marine ecosystem is cause for concern. Algal creatures may be microscopic, but there are trillions upon trillions of them sucking carbon dioxide from their environment and producing oxygen.

That sounds like a good thing—and on a global level it is—but algal blooms also support bacteria that feed in the dead algae, depleting the environment of oxygen. These bacterial organisms have thrived in the Baltic Sea, which is now home to the biggest ocean “dead zone” in the world.

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