Each spring, huge patches of phytoplankton bloom in the oceans, turning cold, blue waters into teeming green pools of microbial life. This ocean “greening,” which can be seen from space, mirrors the springtime thaw on land. But while spring arrives gradually on land, with a few blades here and some buds there, the oceans bloom seemingly overnight.“If you go and look in the ocean and try to sample in deep winter, there’s little phytoplankton,” says Raffaele Ferrari, the Breene M. Kerr Professor of Oceanography in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “It’s like going into a desert. And then all of a sudden you have this bloom explosion, and it’s like a jungle. There is an ongoing debate as to what triggers the bloom onset.”Ferrari and John Taylor, a former postdoc at MIT and now a lecturer in oceanography at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., have...
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