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Huge Hood Canal phytoplankton bloom visible from space

Photo shows teal photoplankton bloom in Washington's Hood Canal on July 24, 2016. *(NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response)

The phytoplankton are out in full force along the Hood Canal -- so much so, it's visible from space!

NASA's Aqua satellite snapped this photo of the phytoplankton bloom in Hood Canal, taken on Sunday.

Jan Newton, an oceanographer at the University of Washington, told Katrhyn Hansen with NASA's Earth Observatory Program that Hood Canal can be quite a productive area.

"It has also been very sunny lately, so that begets blooms," she said.

Three days earlier, Teri King of Washington Sea Grant captured a photograph of the bloom while driving up Hood Canal to provide training for SoundToxins -- a citizen science monitoring program that documents harmful algal blooms, unusual bloom events, and new species entering the Salish Sea.

She confirmed that the color was due to a coccolithophore bloom -- microscopic plankton that are plated with white calcium carbonate. The plates can impart a milky, turquoise hue to the water that is often visible from space, as it was Sunday.

"It is hard to miss a bloom of this color," King wrote on Facebook. "We don't see them often, but when we do it is remarkable."

King wrote this bloom is expected to coincide with oyster spawning in Hood Canal, which should begin soon.

"We don't believe there will be a problem with the spawn and the bloom," King wrote. "We are watching closely."

Newton told Hansen the blooms are a concern because they can lead to a depletion of oxygen in the water.

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