Last summer, scientists found a massive under-ice phytoplankton bloom in the Arctic ocean.
The discovery was shocking for two reasons.
First, a bloom of that size had never been seen anywhere on the planet (It stretched more than 60 miles from the sea-ice edge).
Second, scientists previously thought that the microscopic plants, critical to all marine life, were restricted to ice-free expanses of ocean, where sunlight hits the open water and allows plant life to flourish.
A NASA employee compared the discovery to “finding the Amazon rainforest in the middle of the Mojave Desert.”
Although scientists aren’t sure if the blooms have always been in the Arctic Ocean and just hadn’t yet been discovered, they think that thinning sea ice, allowing more sunlight to pass through the ice, could explain the unprecedented blooms of ocean plant life.
The image below compares the typically barren Arctic Ocean with the large bloom:
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.